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Around FCS: SIU breaks UNI streak

By David Coulson, FCS Executive Director

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The last time that Southern Illinois had celebrated a victory at Northern Iowa's UNI Dome, the Ray Dempsey-coached Salukis were less than three months away from winning a national championship.

After a 27-20 victory over the No. 2-ranked Panthers on Saturday evening, Dale Lennon and SIU can only hope that history will repeat itself.

There isn't a more competitive series in FCS that has been so dominated by home teams. UNI hadn't won at Southern Illinois since 1996 and the Salukis (5-1) hadn't beaten the Panthers on the road since a 52-9 victory in that 1983- championship campaign.

Southern Illinois, which came into the game ranked at No. 5 in The Sports Network's FCS poll, showed how opportunistic it can be by converting a couple of late UNI turnovers into touchdowns before a record crowd of 17,190 fans who were on hand to watch this Missouri Valley Football Conference first-place showdown.

Steven Morse's fumble recovery at the Panther seven on a punt that bounced off UNI's Varmah Sonie set up Walter Payton Award candidate Deji Karim (24 carries, 125 yards rushing) for a tie-breaking, one-yard touchdown blast that gave SIU a 20-13 lead with 5:06 to play.

Cornerback Brandon Williams then made it a 27-13 game at the 2:48 mark when he picked off a third-down pass from UNI quarterback Mark Grace (13-of-28 passing for 219 yards and two TDs) and dashed 21 yards for a clinching score.

Northern Iowa battled back for a three-yard TD pass from Grace, another Payton nominee, to D.J. Hord with 1:50 left, but SIU's Mark Cheatham recovered Billy Hallgren's onside kick and the Salukis ran out the clock.

"I told our team afterwards in the locker room that it was just game No. 6, but it was a heck of a game No. 6," Southern Illinois coach Dale Lennon said. "We had a great defensive effort. We got to give our players credit for keeping their focus because the guys did well and were able to get the job done."

The Panthers (5-2) were stymied four times inside the Southern Illinois 10-yard line, managing just one touchdown and two field goals. The only TD during those drives came on UNI's final possession and that red zone defense offset a 375-345 deficit in total offense for the Salukis.

Southern Illinois quarterback Chris Dieker played competitively with Grace, hitting 16-of-29 passes for 174 yards and a score. Both quarterbacks threw an interception.

MORE UPSETS

It was again a difficult week for ranked teams, with six more top-25 squads meeting defeat.

No. 4 New Hampshire, just a week off its own upset of a No. 2-ranked Villanova squad, fell at No. 18 Massachusetts, 23-17, in another game in this New England series that was decided on the final play for these two Colonial Athletic Association North Division teams.

Quarterback R.J. Toman (23-of-45, 284 yards passing) tossed a six-yard TD pass to tight end Scott Sicko (10 catches, 145 yards) with 12:48 remaining to give UNH (5-1) a 17-10 lead. It was the second scoring connection of the game between the two Wildcat stars.

But Jon Hernandez (29 carries, 166 yards) broke loose for a 42-yard touchdown scamper to put the Minutemen (4-2) back in front with 5:23 remaining and Armando Cuko added a 41-yard field goal with 1:26 left.

Hernandez was subbing for an injured Payton Award candidate, Tony Nelson, who managed just two carries for two yards before exiting.

Toman moved the Wildcats into position for a possible winning score at the Minuteman 13 in the waning seconds, but Kumar Davis intercepted a pass in the end zone on the final play to finish off the UMass win.

Eric Dickson had 18 tackles for UMass, while Terrence Klein picked off a pair of pass for New Hampshire.

THE WILD, WILD SOUTHLAND

No. 10 Central Arkansas (4-2) also lost on the final play as it was ambushed at home by No. 20 Stephen F. Austin, 33-30. SFA had upset then-No. 7 McNeese State the previous week at home.

In a crazy game where the Lumberjacks (5-1) took advantage of UCA miscues, Central Arkansas thought it would get to overtime when Robbie Park (27-of-42, 236 yards passing) fired a 44-yard scoring strike to Preston Echols with 59 seconds remaining.

But Jeremy Moses (29-of-40, 320 yards, two TDs passing) had the last shot and he drove SFA into scoring position at the UCA 18 with seven seconds on the clock. Freshman Evan Engwell then punched through a 35-yard field goal to provide the Lumberjacks with the win.

PLAYOFFS? WHAT PLAYOFFS?

A week after coming within six yards of an upset of top-ranked Richmond, No. 13 James Madison was throttled by No. 6 Villanova, being shutout for the first time at home since 1990, 27-0.

The top-ranked team in FCS during the 2008 regular season, JMU (2-4) watched its hopes of a third consecutive playoff berth go up in flames.

It didn't take long for Villanova, rebounding from its first loss of the season, 28-24 last week at New Hampshire, to gain control of this game. The Wildcats needed just seven plays after taking the opening kickoff to march 67 yards for a touchdown.

Matt Szczur's run off-tackle from the wildcat formation went for 44 yards and set up quarterback Chris Whitney for a four-yard scoring toss to fullback Tony Canci in the back of the end zone.

Villanova (5-1) then piled it on for 13 points in the second quarter as Whitney (11- of-16 passing for 93 yards and three TDs, 18 carries for 97 yards rushing) hit Szczur on a 30-yard scoring strike in between Nick Yako field goals of 42 and 32 yards.

Whitney tied his career high with his third touchdown pass, a 22-yard aerial to Szczur, midway through the third quarter to put the final nail in JMU's playoff coffin.

Szczur also tied a career-high with his three TDs and tallied 154 all-purpose yards on a day where Villanova held a 318-260 advantage in total offense.

But it was the defense that made the biggest difference for Villanova.

Safety John Dempsey forced two fumbles that were recovered by Fred Maldonado (game-high 11 tackles) and James Pitts and linebacker Terrence Thomas caused another fumble to go with 10 tackles. The Wildcats had eight tackles for loss, led by 2.5 from defensive end Tim Kukucka.

The Wildcats pressured Thorpe (13-of-32 passing for 144 yards, 18 carries for 65 yards rushing) constantly, forcing the young, but talented speedster into two fumbles.

ANOTHER NEAR MISS

No. 21 Eastern Washington, the last Big Sky Conference road team to win at Washington-Grizzly Stadium, gave No. 3 Montana its best shot, but came up short 41-34 at the end. EWU had dropped a game to then-21st-ranked Weber State the previous week at home.

The Eagles (4-3) took a 34-20 win in 2005 behind the play of Payton-Award- winning quarterback Erik Meyer and receiver Eric Kimble and just missed another upset in Missoula, MT. in a late 24-23 loss in 2007.

This was another wild one, with Payton nominee Matt Nichols (32-of-49, 312 yards and three TDs passing) hitting Aaron Boyce on a 50-yard strike to tie the score at 27, heading to the fourth quarter. Boyce (seven catches, 114 yards) tore his Achilles tendon later in the game to end a standout career.

Montana (6-0) jumped back in front as Marc Mariani returned a punt 82 yards for a score, but EWU tied it again with under five minutes to play on Taiwan Jones' one-yard burst.

The Grizzlies won it, however, by putting the ball in the hands of its own Payton Award candidate, running back Chase Reynolds (21 carries, 69 yards). Reynolds burrowed into the end zone from the one with 1:18 to give Montana its final lead.

Buchanan Award candidate J.C. Sherritt had 17 tackles for the Eagles, including five solo stops. Sherritt leads all of FCS with 101 tackles.

SECOND-QUARTER EXPLOSION

In another huge conference showdown, No. 22 Florida A&M was overwhelmed by No. 11 South Carolina State, 35-20, when the host Bulldogs scored 28 second-quarter points in this long-anticipated MEAC contest.

SCSU's set the tone in the first quarter when it held FAMU to a pair of Trevor Scott field goals on deep Rattler drives. Overall, the Bulldog defense limited FAMU to 35 yards rushing.

The Bulldog offense got into the act when William Ford (24 carries, 141 yards) scored his first of two touchdowns on a five-yard rumble to give his team a lead it wouldn't relinquish.

But South Carolina State ((5-1) poured it on in the second period when Travil Jamison and Ford scored on runs in between a 17-yard TD aerial from Malcolm Long (14-of-19, 164 yards passing) to Oliver Tre Young.

Down 28-13 at the end of the first half and wanting a late strike to draw closer, Payton nominee Curtis Pulley (23-of-37, 320 yards, one TD passing) made a fatal mistake with one of his three interceptions. Donovan Richard intercepted the ball and returned it 47 yards with just 41 seconds left to demoralize the Rattlers (4-2).

SCSU then turned to its powerful rushing attack to control the clock in the second half.

Jayson Ayers led the defensive effort for SCSU with six tackles, four of them solo stops and three for losses of 19 yards. He had one sack, two quarterback hurries and forced a fumble.

SLOW STARTS

No. 1 Richmond and No. 9 Appalachian State each survived slow first-half starts on the road again before turning on the after-burners. Richmond outdistanced Maine 38-21 and Appalachian State rushed past Wofford 44-34.

Maine, living up to its reputation for playing tough at home, forged a 14-10 first-half lead behind the play of quarterback Warren Smith (35-of-58, 327 yards), who ran for one score and threw for another.

But the Spiders (6-0) drove for the lead and went up 17-14 on a three-yard scoring pass from Eric Ward (11-of-21, 108 yards passing) to Donte Boston.

Two big plays then put the game away for Richmond. Derek Hatcher returned a punt 90 yards for a touchdown and Garrett Wilkins dashed 57 yards for another score to make it 31-14 early in the fourth period.

Appalachian State (4-2) was pushed further by an inspired Wofford squad that has been stung by injuries. The Mountaineers needed a three-yard scoring scamper from Payton Award-winning quarterback Armanti Edwards to cut the Terriers' lead to 27-20 on the final play of the first half.

But ASU turned to big plays of its own to roar past Wofford in the second half. After the Terriers went up 34-20 less than three minutes into the third period on Austin Palmer's two-yard TD plunge, Devon Moore (25 carries, 180 yards rushing) raced 48 yards for the first of his two second-half scores.

After a 49-yard Jason Vitaris field goal, Edwards (27-of-34, 415 yards passing) found Brian Quick (eight catches, 181 yards) for a 57-yard touchdown statement to clinch it midway through the fourth quarter. Edwards led a Mountaineer offense that piled up 611 yards.

Buchanan Award candidate Mark LeGree led the ASU defensive effort with a pair of interceptions to kill Wofford drives. The free safety, who finished third in the award voting last season, has five interceptions in the past two years against Wofford.

CLOSE SHAVE

If any team knows how crucial that the kicking game is, it is No. 19 Cal Poly. The Mustangs (3-3) won one game against San Diego State on a last-second field goal and lost two other contests to Montana and Wisconsin on missed kicks.

But on Saturday, it was Cal Poly's turn to earn a victory when another kicker suffered a disastrous finish.

Southern Utah quarterback Cade Cooper (27-of-40, 263 yards, three TDs passing) fired a 15-yard scoring strike to Tysson Poots (12 catches, 170 yards) with nine seconds left to make it 24-23 and all the Thunderbirds needed was an extra point to send the game to overtime.

But Ryan Griffith's PAT failed and left Cal Poly with a one-point win.

Jake Romanelli, replacing an injured Jordan Yocum at fullback, rushed for 108 yards on 24 carries. Defensive end Ryan Shotwell, the brother of 2006 Buchanan Award winner Kyle Shotwell, came through with three of the Mustangs' five sacks against Cooper.

OFFENSIVE OUTBURST

John Skelton threw for a school-record 420 yards, tossed five touchdown passes and ran for another to lead Fordham to a 39-27 victory over Cornell. Skelton was 20-of-27, fired four TD passes of 50 or more yards and rolled up 309 passing yards in the first half.

One of the touchdowns went for 98 yards to Asa Lucas to tie a Patriot League record for the longest pass play in history. Jason Caldwell hauled in nine passes for 245 yards and the other four TDs.

Abdul El-Quddus tied a Fordham record with three interceptions and also shared for the team lead with six tackles in the Rams' 39-27 victory at Cornell on Saturday.

Abdul El-Quddus totaled 81 return yards on the three interceptions, including a 37-yard run back on his final pick that set up Fordham's last touchdown. He had five solo stops and a pass breakup in the game.

It was also a big day for Cornell's Brian Walters, who had an FCS-season-best of 338 all-purpose yards. The dynamic Walters had 10 catches for 178 yards and one TD, six kickoff returns for 153 yards and three punt returns for seven yards.

TURNING IT AROUND

Cody Kirby had an 18-of-32 day with 341 yards passing for Missouri State, which pulled out a 17-16 win over Western Illinois. Tight end Clay Harbor caught eight of those passes for a career-high 171 yards and a 37-yard field goal from Matt Hottelman with 36 seconds left gave the Bears to MVFC victory.

MSU had dropped a heartbreaker to No. 14 South Dakota State on the final play a week earlier when Kirby was intercepted in the end zone.

Cornerback Patrick Stoudamire returned a fumble 88 yards for a Leathernecks touchdown in the second quarter. It was just two yards short of the Western Illinois record, set by Cornell Middlebrook in 2002 against Northern Iowa.

TOONING UP

Tim Toone returned a punt 95 yards for a touchdown on a day where he piled up 263 all-purpose yards with four total touchdowns to lead No. 15 Weber State to a 49-10 victory over Sacramento State.

Toone returned two punts for 109 yards and added eight receptions for 154 yards and three TDs of 25, five and eight yards for the Wildcats.

The 95-yard punt return broke the previous Big Sky Conference and school record by one yard, beating the mark of Randle Anderson of Weber State in a 1971 game against North Texas. Toone also became the seventh player in league history to reach the 3,000 career receiving yards mark.

TAKEAWAYS

Patrick McClellan was involved in three of Eastern Kentucky�s five takeaways in the No. 24 Colonels 31-25 win over UT Martin.

McClellan grabbed his first two collegiate interceptions, including one at his team�s own 14-yard line in the third quarter. His other interception came in the first quarter as EKU built a 14-0 advantage.

Late in the fourth quarter McClellan recovered a fumble on a muffed Skyhawk punt, falling on the ball at the UTM four-yard line and setting up the team�s game-winning score. McClellan also added a season-high seven tackles.

T.J. Pryor was 19-of-33 for 235 yards and two TDs to lead the EKU offense. Pryor, who had been struggling with interceptions, was not picked off in this game. He found Garnett Phelps seven times for 118 yards, including a 45-yard touchdown.

OTHER NOTABLES

Dale Fink of Sacred Heart broke loose for a career-best 373 yards passing, hitting 36-of-54 attempts in a 42-20 loss to Monmouth. Steve Tedesco latched on to 11 receptions for 168 yards and a touchdown. Payton Award nominee David Sinisi ran 20 times for 135 yards and two TDs to lead Monmouth to the Northeast Conference win.

Buddy Farnham grabbed 10 passes for 199 yards and a touchdown as Brown beat Princeton 34-17 in Ivy League play. Quarterback Kyle Newhall was 23-of-36 for 309 yards and two TDs.

Joshua Philpart needed only six catches to pile up 192 yards and a pair of TDs for Jacksonville in a 39-0 victory over Morehead State in a Pioneer Football League game. His quarterback, Josh McGregor was 13-of-24 for 294 yards and four TDs.

Quarterback Dustin Taliaferro rolled up 353 yards of total offense for Samford, but the Bulldogs failed on a two-point conversion in the fourth quarter as Furman hung on to a 26-24 Southern Conference. Taliaferro was 29-of-46 passing for 306 yards.

Linebacker Kadarron Anderson of Furman piled up 19 tackles to lead the Paladins' defensive effort in the win over Samford. He also had a pass breakup and combined on one tackle for loss.

Rolf Bathold was the force behind Robert Morris� defensive effort that snapped a six-game slide and delivered the Colonials� first shutout since 2006. The junior defensive back recorded four solo tackles, one forced fumble, one pass break-up, one blocked kick, and a key 25-yard interception return for a touchdown.

With Robert Morris clinging to a 7-0 third-quarter lead, Bathold stepped in front of a Red Flash pass and returned it 25 yards down the far sideline to double the Colonials� advantage. He saved RMU three points in the first quarter when he blocked a field goal attempt.

Joe Ries was a big part of Dayton's defensive effort in a 17-0 PFL victory against Davidson, Saturday. He had eight tackles (four solo), including a tackle for loss and a forced fumble.

Ries also had a pair of interceptions, which he returned for 62 yards, and added a pass breakup. He led a Flyer defense that held Davidson�s offense below its season average with just 228 yards.

Norfolk State quarterback Dennis Brown set a school record for completion percentage by hitting 18-of-21 passes for 229 yards and two TDs as the Spartans downed Hampton 46-6. It was NSU's biggest win in the Battle of the Bay since 1970.

Hunter Wankett led Central Connecticut State to its fourth comeback victory in a row with 233 passing yards, 49 rushing yards and three TDs as the Blue Devils beat Duquesne 31-24. Wankett completed 15-of-20 passes as CCSU stayed undefeated in the NEC and went to 5-1 overall.

Albany won an NEC-record, 17th-consecutive league game with a 20-17 decision against Bryant. Vinny Esposito was 25-of-32 for 280 yards and two TDs and Payton nominee David McCarty rushed 38 times for 118 yards.

10/20 03:58:06 ET



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