Sunday, December 7, 2008

FCS Playoffs 2008: Results and Semifinals Predictions

Quarterfinals Results

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. . . .

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.

Weber State 13 Montana 24

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:

"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.

Should we be surprised? No.

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.

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.

It should be quite a game next fall!

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.

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.
Prediction success this week: 2/4 (In other words, as good as a monkey with a dartboard.)

Semifinals Predictions

#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


Anonymous said...

I agree that the Villanova Atkinson fumble was a close call, but no more "controversial" than the Landers fumble in the 2nd quarter (ball came out when he hit the ground--which I think means he was down while still in possession of the ball) that led to Nova's 2nd TD drive.

IMO, the officiating was pretty rough both ways (i.e. missed personal fouls, etc) and I think your coverage makes it seem like Villanova was the only one getting the short end of the crew's calls. Not so...again, in IMO.

Mark said...

It is really getting old to hear how good the CAA is when it is the most overrated conference in the FCS. It is a conference that does not allow teams to play every team in the conference. The MVFC and SOCON play every team in their respective conferences. Of course the CAA is going to have better records they do not beat up on eachother with 12 teams. How can you call yourself a true conference champion when you have not played the best competition in the conference? UNI, SIU, ASU, and Wofford would all destroy the competition in the CAA. Look at UNI the supposed overrated team in the playoff. UNI has beat two CAA teams already looking for a third and they have a chance to beat 4 of 5 out of the CAA. The CAA continues to struggle in the playoffs with the exception of a Richmond win. I hope you all are ready for a Panther/Grizz final, as the CAA continues to choke!!!!

Anonymous said...

I'd probably check my facts before I started making the ridiculous claims that you have made. UNI,SIU, ASU, and Wofford would all destory the competition in the CAA? Last time I checked UNI is the only one of those teams still in the play-offs while two CAA teams remain. In fact, ASU, Wofford, and SIU were all eliminated from the play-offs by CAA teams, with both ASU and SIU losing on their home fields. Not to mention ASU lost to JMU earlier this regular season, Elon lost to Richmond, and Furman lost to Deleware. While the CAA teams don't all play each other, when facing the top teams from the SOCON, they seem to fare pretty well. The CAA made up 50% of the quarterfinal field, and now make up 50% of the semi-finals. Struggle in the play-offs? A CAA team has been in 4 of the past 5 championship games and I'm willing to bet the streak continues with a Richmond/JMU rematch in the championship game

Anonymous said...

Great!!! CAA teams have won a few playoff games, but that is not my point. The CAA would not be considered the best conference if only 9 teams existed in it because every body plays eachother. Yes, the point I was making is that the before mentioned teams would strive in that conference because those teams would maybe play 3 of the top teams in that conference a year. You can honestly tell me the CAA would get 5 bids a year (past two years) with a 9 team conference. Do not think so!!! I do not question their out of conference wins, but I do question why people over hype a 12 team conference with no championship game.

Mark said...

Sorry, forgot to sign off on that last comment.

Anonymous said...

Ok, that's a little clearer. I agree that five teams from the CAA would not have made it if it were a 9 team conference. If the five play-off teams had all played each other, only three teams probably emerge from that with the records to make the play-offs. However, you can't really argue that the CAA is an overrated conference when, outside of Maine who probably didn't deserve to be there in the first place, they have all won big play-off games and two teams remain in the semi-finals. If you want to argue the merits of the conference, you have to look at the out of conference performance, and, for this year at least, the CAA has been the superior conference.

Anonymous said...

I think the Grizzlies will surprise a lot of people this weekend. I know they are sometimes considered overrated but not this year. At the beginning of the year they were hoping to win 6 and ended up with 13 wins so far.

I think it will be a close one against JMU with a Griz victory.

Anonymous said...

I would not be suprised if Richmond struggles on Saturday if they get caught up on a hang over win against ASU.

Anonymous said...

Two years in a row UNH. Here is a tribute for you at this link.

Anonymous said...

That's right. Grizzlies take it to the championship!

We win this year and that's it!