What a weekend of football! The 2021 NFL Draft and the FCS Playoffs Quarterfinals both took place. Just for those who are wondering, six players from the FCS were drafted over the weekend. While some FCS football players were hoping to hear their names called on Friday and Saturday, others were preparing for playoff games.
On Sunday we saw all four FCS Playoffs Quarterfinal matchups. South Dakota State took on MVFC rival Southern Illinois. Also in the MVFC, North Dakota State took on Sam Houston State. In our second to last quarterfinal, Delaware took on Jacksonville State. Finally, James Madison hosted North Dakota on Sunday afternoon for the chance to go to the semi-finals. It was indeed a great weekend, so let’s check out the FCS Playoffs results from the weekend.
Delaware 20, Jacksonville State 14 | FCS Playoffs
The Blue Hens took down number four seed Jacksonville State Sunday afternoon. As pointed out last week, the Gamecocks were going to run out of gas at some point, I just didn’t think it would be against the Blue Hens. Delaware tried to get the game rolling by running the football. However, the Gamecocks defense was up to the task and held Walter Payton Award finalist Dejoun Lee to 22 yards on 19 carries. The Hens were finally able to find the end zone on the ground with Lee and led at half, 14-0.
After the break, Delaware put some air in the ball and quarterback Nolan Henderson ended up throwing for 240 yards. Lee and Anthony Paoletti each found the end zone on the ground eventually for the Hens. However, it was kicker Ryan Coe who was 2/2 on field goals in the second half, putting the game on ice for the Hens. The Gamecocks had an incredible season and played in 13 games over the fall and spring combined. They should come back in the Fall much stronger. As for the Blue Hens, they will be heading on the road to face the winner of the South Dakota State vs Southern Illinois.
South Dakota State 31, Southern Illinois 26 | FCS Playoffs
The Jackrabbits from South Dakota State advanced to the semi-finals of the FCS Playoffs for the second time in three years. Jerry Rice Award finalist quarterback Mark Gronowski was exceptional on Sunday evening. He was 9/16 throwing the ball for 183 yards and two touchdowns. Gronowski also torched the Salukis on the ground, rushing for 142 yards on just 13 carries. He also found the end zone once on the ground for the Jackrabbits. South Dakota State actually trailed at halftime, 20-10. Saluki quarterback Stone Labanowitz threw for nearly 250 yards and one touchdown. He did have two costly interceptions as well.
The Jackrabbits came out of the break like a team with a mission. Gronowski had a huge 67-yard touchdown run that gave the Jackrabbits a 24-20 lead. On the next Saluki drive, Xavier Ward recovered a fumble to give the Jackrabbits great field position. Isaiah Davis found the end zone on the ground to give the Rabbits their final touchdown. It was a great season for Southern Illinois. They beat North Dakota State, 38-14, in late February. That is one of the biggest wins in program history. However, the Jackrabbits and Gronowski were just too good on Sunday. The Jackrabbits will host Delaware next weekend in the semi-finals.
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Sam Houston State 24, North Dakota State 20 | FCS Playoffs
The Bearkats finally got to avenge their FCS Playoffs demons against North Dakota State. In 2017, the Bison dominated the Bearkats, 55-13, in the FCS Semi-finals. Well, K.C. Keeler and company took that to heart and got the best of the Bison this year. Kat quarterback Eric Schmid was a freshman on that 2017 team, and he was a big reason the Kats pulled out the victory on Sunday afternoon. Schmid was 25/37 for 227 yards and one touchdown. He also found pay-dirt on the ground once.
The Bison trailed at half, but went into the break with momentum after blocking a punt that went through the end zone, making the score 10-2 Bearkats. After three quarters, the game was knotted at 17. The Bison added a field goal to give themselves a three-point lead with under five minutes to play. However, Bearkat signal caller put the Kats on his back and scored a six-yard rushing touchdown to give the Bearkats a 24-20 lead. Bison freshman quarterback Cam Miller threw an incomplete pass on fourth down on the ensuing drive, putting the game on ice for the Bearkats.
It wasn’t the best season for the Bison, but they will be back. Miller will be much better in his first full year under center this fall. Overall, the Bison were very young this spring, so head coach Matt Entz will have a lot to work with in a couple months. The Bearkats will host the winner of James Madison vs North Dakota next weekend.
James Madison 34, North Dakota 21 | FCS Playoffs
The Fighting Hawks from North Dakota went on the road to take on James Madison on Sunday afternoon. The Dukes had a fast start to the game, going up 10-0 in the first quarter on a field goal and a touchdown run by Walter Payton Award finalist Percy Agyei-Obese. The Hawks struck back in the form of a touchdown run by Quincy Vaughn. On the ensuing possession, Agyei-Obese once again found the end zone. However, North Dakota came right back and scored on a touchdown run by Otis Weah. The Dukes knocked in a field goal just before half to give them a 20-14 lead at the break.
With about seven minutes to play in the third quarter, Duke signal-caller Cole Johnson found Antwane Wells Jr. for a touchdown, giving the Dukes a 27-14 lead. James Madison’s defense held on the next North Dakota possession and forced a punt. On 3rd & 6 with just over 10 minutes remaining in the game, Johnson again found Wells Jr. for a 63-yard touchdown pass to put the game away. Luke Skokna scored a late touchdown for the Hawks.
All in all, it was an excellent year for the Fighting Hawks. They will return quarterback Tommy Schuster, who had a rough playoffs, but a great year overall. They will also return the backfield tandem of Otis Weah and Luke Skokna. As for the Dukes? Well they will head to Huntsville, Texas next weekend to take on the Bearkats.
FCS Playoffs Semi-Final Schedule
Delaware vs South Dakota State
Date: Saturday May 8th, 2021 | Time: Noon ET
Location: Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium — Brookings, SD
James Madison vs Sam Houston State
Date: Saturday May 8th, 2021 | Time: 2:30 PM ET
Location: Elliott T. Bowers Stadium — Huntsville, TX