Richmond 33 Appalachian State 13
WOW. Who would have thunk it? Not many beyond the Richmond locker room certainly! This more or less sums things up:
The Mountaineers (11-3) finished with seven turnovers, as standout quarterback Armanti Edwards threw five interceptions in a game after never throwing more than two in one day before. . . .Weber State 13 Montana 24
The Spiders' defense had been shutting down running games for weeks. Six straight opponents had been held under 100 yards. ASU was No.7, gaining 39 yards on 23 carries.
On the other hand, Richmond used 6-foot, 232-pound running back Josh Vaughan to batter the Appalachian defense. The Spiders rushed for 238 yards, with Vaughan crashing forward for 133.
It was really rather straightforward. The visitors stopped the run, ran effectively themselves and didn't make mistakes (no turnovers) while the home team did.
Meanwhile, Montana was making members of its own fan base look foolish:
MISSOULA — Perhaps you heard this remark from a University of Montana football fan last week:Should we be surprised? No.
"There's no way Montana can beat Weber State unless the Grizzlies get their heads out of their dens and score 35 points."
Or maybe this one:
"There's no way Montana can hold Weber State's offense to less than three touchdowns."
Oops! Twenty-four points looked pretty imposing on the UM side of the scoreboard Saturday afternoon.
Oops! Thirteen points on the Weber side of the scoreboard wasn't a typographical error, was it?
No, it wasn't. The only error made by Griz fans was in underestimating the strength and resiliency of the UM defense, which held the Wildcats 24 points under their season average.
And more importantly, the Griz held the Wildcats to 32 fewer points than they scored Oct. 4 in a victory against Montana.
Villanova 27 James Madison 31
The Dukes and Wildcats did it again. Same plot. Not quite as dramatic. Bigger stakes. One helluva football game. And more grudges for Villanova to chew on:
Landers threw for 157 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 143 yards and the game-winning 1-yard score. On that clinching drive, JMU chewed up 5 minutes and 16 seconds on 11 plays, leaving Villanova with only 1:38 to mount a comeback.It should be quite a game next fall!
That hope ended when Villanova quarterback Chris Whitney was intercepted at midfield by safety Marcus Haywood with 40 seconds remaining, allowing James Madison to run out the clock.
Villanova finished 10-3, with two of those losses coming against JMU (12-1). The Dukes won the previous game, 23-19, on a Hail Mary pass. JMU will play Montana on Saturday in one of the Division I-AA semifinals.
Villanova got the short end of two controversial calls. Wildcats defensive back Ross Vetrone appeared to intercept a jump-ball pass from Landers to tight end Mike Caussin in the end zone, but officials ruled that Caussin had possession. Receiver Phil Atkinson fumbled to set up JMU's second touchdown, but replays appeared to show that Atkinson was down before he fumbled, and that a Dukes player pulled his face mask in the process.
New Hampshire 34 Northern Iowa 36
The game was not decided until the final seconds, but the Curse of the Dome lives on, helped by sloppy play from the Wildcats:
The Panthers (12-2) needed a stop on New Hampshire's final possession as the Wildcats (10-3) moved into position for a possible game-winning field goal. There wasn't a comfortable stomach in the house, except possibly for James Ruffin's.Prediction success this week: 2/4 (In other words, as good as a monkey with a dartboard.)
Ruffin, the Missouri Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year, sacked New Hampshire quarterback R.J. Toman for a 7-yard loss, giving the Wildcats a fourth-and-9 predicament at their own 38 with 73 seconds left.
Toman had an open receiver on the next play, but he threw the ball too high for T.J. Wright, and the celebration began. . . .
Northern Iowa's defense forced six turnovers, including four interceptions, but the Panthers had problems of their own. Grace lost a fumble at the New Hampshire 6-yard line late in the first half, then threw an interception on UNI's next possession that was returned 100 yards for a touchdown on the final play of the half by John Clements that gave the Wildcats a 27-26 lead with the PAT.
"It was a careless interception," Grace said. "Thank goodness the defense played awesome all day."
Grace responded by leading UNI on a 39-yard drive on the first possession of the third quarter, leading to a 35-yard field goal by Billy Hallgren that gave the Panthers a 29-27 lead. They held on to the end, but just barely.
Terrell McMoore made a huge play for the Panthers when he intercepted a pass by Toman and raced 36 yards for a touchdown that gave UNI a 36-27 lead with 2:26 left in the third period.
#4 Montana at #1 James Madison
This is a fairly easy call, despite the two close escapes by the Dukes in the playoffs this year. Why? No other FCS team has played so well against top opposition this year. They beat the defending national champion, Appalachian State, and the other SOCON standout this year, Wofford. They shut down Maine on the road. They beat fellow CAA semifinalist Richmond by a touchdown on the road. The two wins against Villanova establish that they play cool even when requiring scoring drives in the final minutes. No disrespect to the Grizzlies, but James Madison is way too good this year.
Richmond at #3 Northern Iowa
This is a tougher call. Both teams won on Saturday in large part as a consequence of errors by their opponents. Richmond, however, posted a resounding victory, on the road at the defending national champions. Northern Iowa squeaked it out, at home, against a very fine New Hampshire team which, realistically, is not on the same level as Appalachian State. Just as the Spiders ended the playoff streak of the Mountaineers, they should go on to exorcise the Curse of the Dome, and set up an all-CAA final.
FCS Playoff Watch 2008 #1
FCS Playoff Watch 2008 #2
FCS Playoff Watch 2008 #3
FCS Playoff Watch 2008 #4
FCS Afternoon: Countdown to the 2008 Playoffs
FCS Playoffs 2008: Bracket Projection
FCS Bracket Announced: Comment and Predictions
FCS Playoffs 2008: Results and Quarterfinals Predictions
FCS Playoffs 2008: Results and Semifinals Predictions
FCS Playoffs 2008: Results, Final Prediction, and FBS comment