In Sunday's FCS quarterfinal playoff action, top-seed South Dakota State needed a second-half comeback to stay in the chase, No. 2 seed Sam Houston State halted North Dakota State's run to a fourth straight championship, 3-seed James Madison looked strong at home, and 4-seed Jacksonville State was ousted by Delaware.
Sam Houston State improved to 15-0 in home playoff games, and head coach K.C. Keeler is now 28-0 in home playoff games with three different schools, after knocking out three-time defending champion North Dakota State, 24-20, in Huntsville, Texas on Sunday afternoon.
18 of North Dakota State's points came directly via special teams - a blocked punt safety, a kickoff return TD, a punt return TD, a field goal and 1 PAT kick. The other 2 came on a two-point conversion pass.
The Bearkats (8-0) built a 17-2 lead before NDSU tied it with back-to-back scores by ts specials teams. the kick return TD came right after SHSU had taken that 17-2 lead. The Bison then forced a punt on SHSU's next possession and that one was taken to the house.
North Dakota State took its first and only lead with 8:17 to go on the 33-yard FG, but Sam Houston State responded with a 9-play, 72-yard drive that culminated with a game-winning 6-yard run by QB Eric Schmid.
The Bearkats converted a pair of first quarter turnovers by the Bison into a 10-0 lead. For the game, NDSU turned the ball over 3 times compared to none for the home team.
Sam Houston State, the No. 2 seed, will now host No. 3 James Madison on Saturday for a matchup of undefeated teams.
James Madison (7-0) was a methodical 34-21 winner over North Dakota in Harrisonburg, Virginia on Sunday night. The Dukes jumped out to 10-0 lead in the first quarter and clung to a 20-14 halftime advantage. After the break, JMU seemed even more content to just wear down the visiting Fighting Hawks with a relentless ground game that accumulated 217 yards. That allowed for two big pass plays for scoring strikes of 19 and 63 yards widen the Dukes' advantage to 34-13.
North Dakota scored its final touchdown with 6:39 still remaining, but JMU recovered the onside kick and maintained possession of the football to the final whistle.
The other Sunday afternoon game saw Delaware improve to 7-0 with a 20-14 win at No. 4 seed Jacksonville State (10-3). The unseeded Blue Hens took the opening kickoff on a touchback and proceeded to march 75 yards in 8 plays for a 7-0 lead with 11:35 still left in the quarter. After the Gamecocks were held to 4 plays and a punt, Delaware went back to work with an 11-play, 89-yard drive that took nearly 9 minutes off the clock and resulted in a 3-yard TD run for a 14-0 lead.
That score held up until JSU's opening possession of the second half when a 74-yard run on first play set up a 1-yard scoring run. But after that, a pair of field goals increased Delaware's lead to 20-7 and Jacksonville State didn't score again until there were just 41 ticks left on the clock.
Jacksonville State managed just 8 first downs for the entire game, compared to 24 for Delaware and was out-gained 374 yards to 200.
The last of the quarterfinal games kicked off at 9 p.m. EDT in Brookings where the South Dakota State Jackrabbits rallied in the fourth quarter for a 31-26 win over Southern Illinois.
These teams had met back on March 20 in Carbondale with the Salukis getting embarrassed 44-3 on their home field. For a while on Sunday night, it looked SIU was going to return the favor. But the Jacks appeared to have turned their night around on the first series of the second half, thanks to a an endzone interception that prevented Southern Illinois from building on its 20-10 lead.
Instead, SDSU marched 80 yards the other direction in just 4 plays to cut the gap to 20-17. Southern Illinois was thwarted again on its next possession by a Jackrabbits' goal line stand that stopped a 4th-and-goal TD attempt from the one and then drove 99 yards in only 6 plays for a 24-20 lead. SIU's next series resulted in a fumble, after which that South Dakota State needed just four plays to convert into a 31-20 advantage,
Southern Illinois got back in the game with a quick 5-play drive to make it 31-26 with 5:37 still to play. After holding the Jacks to a punt, the Salukis drove from their own 22 to the SDSU 36 before the last threat was halted with an INT at the 9-yard line on a play that began with only 13 seconds remaining.
Delaware will now visit South Dakota State in the other semifinal game next Saturday.
When the day began, four of the remaining eight teams were tied to the Missouri Valley Football Conference, two were Colonial Athletic Association members, one was from the Ohio Valley Conference and the other was from the Southland. The final four makeup consists of one remaining MVFC team (South Dakota State), two from the CAA (James Madison and Delaware), and one from the Southland (Jacksonville State).
|4/24 (*=home)||5/2 (*=home)||5/8 (*=home)|
|Holy Cross (3-1) 3
|*-#1 SDSU (6-1) 31
|So. Illinois (6-3) 34
||So. Illinois 26
|*-Weber State (5-1) 31
|4/24, 7 p.m.|
|Sacred Hart (3-2) 10
|*-Delaware (6-0) 19
|Davidson (4-3) 14
|*-#4 J'ville St. (10-2) 49
||*-J'ville St. 14
|VMI (6-2) 24|
|*-#3 JMU (6-0) 31
|Missouri State (5-5) 10
|*-North Dakota (5-1) 44
||North Dakota 21
|E. Washington (5-2) 20
|*-NDSU (7-2) 42
|Monmouth (3-1) 15
|*-#2 SHSU (7-0) 21
The computer has lost its champion pick in North Dakota State, but its original final four selections of Delware, James Madison and South Dakota State are still alive.
The Human pick still has predicetd champ Sam Houston State in the mix, but JMU is the only other survivor from that field.
Sam Herder at HeroSports.com loses North Dakota State,but still has predicted champ South Dakota State in the running along with James Maidon and Delaware.