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September To Remember

By Craig Haley, FCS Executive Director

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Sinatra was on the stereo the other day. Oh, those Septembers of his years.

Granted, what happens in late fall takes precedence over what occurs in September (and this season's FCS championship game even moves into the winter on Friday, Jan. 7 in Frisco, Texas).

But if a team has a (positive) September to remember, then there is a lot to look forward to heading toward the heart of conference play in October.

The following list provides a team from each FCS conference - plus the five independents - that had a September to remember. Some teams seemingly overachieved while others were expected to do well and just powered through the month.

Ol' Blue Eyes is smiling down on all of them.

By the way, college students know who Sinatra is, right? And a stereo?

BIG SKY CONFERENCE

Montana State (3-1, 1-0) has enjoyed an overpowering start and would be unbeaten if not for a fourth-quarter collapse at Pac-10 opponent Washington State. Coach Rob Ash made the right call in giving Denarius McGhee the starting quarterback job over Cody Kempt, who remains a terrific backup.

The Bobcats have allowed only 305 rushing yards in four games and knocked Eastern Washington All-America Taiwan Jones out of a 30-7 win over the Eagles on Saturday. The win is being heralded as the biggest in Ash's four seasons in Bozeman.

BIG SOUTH CONFERENCE

It's slim pickings in the Big South, whose seven teams are a combined 9-18. That gives the nod to Liberty (2-2), whose results are all over the board. That's memorable, right?

Led by quarterback Mike Brown, the Flames beat Ball State from the FBS and then lost a week later at Robert Morris of the Northeast Conference. A credible 10-3 loss at James Madison would seem to set them up for a nice run of victories, considering the upcoming schedule of the three-time defending conference champions.

Drew Dudzik has guided James Madison to a 3-0 start.
CAA FOOTBALL James Madison (3-0) has the season's biggest win among FCS teams, a 21-16 upset of then 13th-ranked Virginia Tech - only the second time an FCS team has defeated a ranked FBS program. Quarterback Drew Dudzik directed the win by rushing for two touchdowns and throwing for another.

The third-ranked Dukes have overcome the loss of 2009 Buck Buchanan Award winner Arthur Moats at defensive end. Redshirt freshman Stephon Robertson has been one of the nation's best impact players.

GREAT WEST FOOTBALL CONFERENCE

Cal Poly (3-1) had a wild month. The Mustangs had to rally to beat Division II Humboldt State, then stunned Montana, 35-33, when the Grizzlies were top- ranked in the FCS.

Following a loss at Texas State to open a five-game road swing, the Mustangs snapped their eight-game road losing streak with a 40-14 thrashing of McNeese State Saturday night. The tough-to-defend Mustangs tore into the Cowboys for 310 rushing yards behind new starting quarterback Andrew Broadous (89 yards, one touchdown) and slotback Mark Rodgers (72 yards, two touchdowns).

INDEPENDENTS

Coach Bill Curry has Georgia State's first-year program off to a 2-2 start, and in one of the losses the Panthers took fourth-ranked Jacksonville State to overtime before falling 34-27.

Leaving the friendly confines of the Georgia Dome wasn't so bad for Georgia State, either. The Panthers, who played their first three games at home, went on the road for the first time Saturday and beat Campbell, 24-21, on Iain Vance's 30-yard field goal with one second left.

Next up for Georgia State? Three more home games.

IVY LEAGUE

Wow! Make that double wow for Brown, which is 2-0 when it was easy to envision the Bears starting with two losses.

Coach Phil Estes' squad didn't have All-Ivy League quarterback Kyle Newhall- Caballero when it beat a solid Stony Brook squad in overtime. The Bears then played their first-ever night game at Brown Stadium and the defense shut down Harvard's vaunted offense and Alexander Norocea kicked five field goals in a 29-14 win over the league's preseason favorite.

MEAC

The debut of rookie head coach Brian Jenkins has been spectacular at Bethune- Cookman (3-0, 1-0), which leads the FCS with 44.3 points per game. The start includes a 21-7 win over Norfolk State in the Wildcats' conference opener on Saturday.

Quarterback Matthew Johnson, who struggled last season, has thrown seven touchdowns without an interception and leads the FCS in passing efficiency (185.4).

MISSOURI VALLEY FOOTBALL CONFERENCE

Illinois State and Youngstown State deserve credit for 3-1 starts, but Western Illinois' 3-1 start stands out because the Fighting Leathernecks finished 1-10 last season and have a first-year head coach in Mark Hendrickson (he was 5-10 as acting coach over the last two seasons).

WIU has scored at least 40 points in all three wins and its lone loss was by only 10 points (31-21) at Purdue. Included was the 500th win in program history - 56-14 over Sam Houston State - and a 40-7 triumph over Indiana State in the MVFC opener. In that homecoming win over struggling Indiana State, Bryce Flowers rushed for 192 yards and two touchdowns and Caulton Ray for 115 yards and two touchdowns.

NORTHEAST CONFERENCE

Robert Morris' five-game winning streak to end last season was stopped by Dayton in the season opener, but the Colonials have rebounded with a three- game winning streak. It includes conference wins over Sacred Heart and Wagner, and a thrilling, 30-23 win over Big South power Liberty.

Sophomore quarterback Jeff Sinclair has thrown for 10 touchdowns.

After a likely win at St. Francis (Pa.) next Saturday, the Colonials will play four straight games at home.

OHIO VALLEY CONFERENCE

Jacksonville State (4-0, 1-0) was the talk of college football over the first week of the season as coach Jack Crowe's squad won at Ole Miss, 49-48, in double overtime.

The Gamecocks have specialized in thrilling games as their largest margin of victory is seven points, and that came in overtime over Georgia State's first- year program. Jamal Young stole the show in Saturday's 28-23 win at OVC nemesis Eastern Illinois. The senior rushed for a career-high 162 yards and three touchdowns.

PATRIOT LEAGUE

All you need to know is that Georgetown has a 2-0 record in the Patriot League for the first time. But there's plenty more.

The Hoyas (3-1, 2-0) finished 0-11 last season and already have more wins than any of coach Kevin Kelly's first four teams. He was 5-38 overall and 1-22 in Patriot games entering this season.

PIONEER FOOTBALL LEAGUE

As Morehead State (2-2, 1-1) tries to rebound from a 3-8 season, it earned a 45-39 road win at Marist on Saturday. Quarterback Zach Lewis completed 33 passes and threw for four touchdowns for the third straight game.

Lewis threw for 458 yards (one yard shy of the school record) in a non- conference win over St. Francis (Pa.). The Eagles also took PFL favorite Dayton to the wire in a 34-28 loss.

Georgia Southern is 3-1 under new head coach Jeff Monken.
SOUTHERN CONFERENCE

Second-ranked Appalachian State's 4-0 start was expected, so the nod goes to Georgia Southern, which is 3-1 under new head coach Jeff Monken. The triple-option is back, sophomore nose tackle Brent Russell is wreaking havoc with opposing offenses and Eagles fans are thrilled by the encouraging start.

The Eagles won their conference opener in impressive fashion Saturday, trouncing 10th-ranked Elon, 38-21, by controlling the clock for over 38 minutes. Their lone loss was by six points (13-7) at Navy.

SOUTHLAND CONFERENCE

Despite a 41-14 loss on Saturday at FBS program Tulsa, Central Arkansas is ecstatic over a 3-1 start.

Most impressive for the Bears was a 37-7 win at Eastern Illinois on the day the Panthers retired New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton's jersey number. The Bears forced five turnovers and held EIU to six downs while making Clint Conque the winningest coach in school history with 75 victories.

SWAC

Granted the competition hasn't been overwhelming, but Alcorn State's 3-0 start has allowed it to match last season's victory total. The Braves are 2-0 in the SWAC, having beaten Mississippi State and Alabama State.

The three wins equal the number that coach Earnest Collins Jr. had in his first season last year.

TOP 25 TEAMS NOT DUCKING EACH OTHER

Saturday's action had six matchups of teams ranked in The Sports Network/Fathead.com FCS Top 25, an impressive number considering only one was a conference game.

The most thrilling was No. 1 Villanova's 22-10 escape over No. 24 Penn, which entered the game with an FCS-leading nine-game winning streak. The defending national champion Wildcats (3-1) played most of the game without offensive star Matt Szczur and trailed 10-9 in the fourth quarter, but scored two touchdowns in the final 4 minutes, 29 seconds. Quarterback Chris Whitney fired a 21-yard touchdown to Norman White for the go-ahead score and James Pitts' 56-yard interception return for another touchdown sealed the win.

"We let a good team hang around too long, and when you do that you're in harm's way," Villanova coach Andy Talley said.

Szczur, the All-America wide receiver and kick returner who also leads Villanova in its Wildcat scheme, sprained his left ankle on his first touch of the game. Talley doubts Szczur will practice much, if at all, this week as the Wildcats prepare for a game at CAA Football rival William & Mary on Saturday. The Wildcats have a bye the weekend of Oct. 9.

The other tight game among the Top 25 matchups was No. 3 James Madison (3-0) beating No. 22 Liberty (2-2) in a defensive battle, 10-3. Taveion Cuffee's interception with 2:09 remaining sealed the win.

Not quite living up to the potential of a Top 25 matchup: No. 7 Delaware (4-0, 1-0 CAA) 34, No. 5 Richmond (1-2, 0-1) 13; North Dakota State (3-1) 38, No. 21 South Dakota (2-2) 16; No. 20 Cal Poly (3-1) 40, No. 19 McNeese State (1-2) 14; and No. 17 Montana State (3-1, 1-0 Big Sky) 30, No. 9 Eastern Washington (2-2, 1-1) 7.

TAIWAN JONES INJURED

All-America running back/return specialist Taiwan Jones missed most of the second half of Eastern Washington's loss at Montana State with a hip contusion. Coach Beau Baldwin said Jones will play through many types of injuries, but this one hurt too much for the heart of the EWU offense.

Jones entered the game averaging an FCS-high 287.3 all-purpose yards per game, including 151.7 rushing yards. He finished with only 93 all-purpose yards against Montana State, including 63 yards on 13 carries (he still leads the nation with 238.8 all-purpose yards per game).

Eastern Washington travels to Weber State next Saturday in a matchup of 2-2 teams which are 1-1 in the Big Sky.

EYE-OPENING SCORE I

Lamar, which is playing football for the first time since 1989, got another taste of the Southland Conference, which it will join next year. At least the Cardinals won't have to face Stephen F. Austin senior quarterback Jeremy Moses at that point.

Saturday night, Moses led SFA to a 71-3 pounding of Lamar in Nacogdoches, Texas, and the sixth-ranked Lumberjacks (3-1) didn't even score in the fourth quarter. Moses completed 23-of-40 passes for 353 yards and four touchdowns, and became the Southland's all-time leading in passing yards, moving past former Central Arkansas standout Nathan Brown to a career total of 10,596 yards.

Lamar (2-2) turned the ball over four times in the first quarter to fall behind 17-0 on the way to 38-0.

"This was the longest first quarter of my life," Lamar coach Ray Woodard said.

The loss was the largest ever for Lamar, which didn't play star quarterback Andre Bevil in the second half because of a sprained ankle. The Cardinals are hopeful he will play against Sam Houston State next weekend.

EYE-OPENING SCORE II

Prairie View A&M is coming off two straight nine-win seasons, but it probably won't win a second straight SWAC championship. Despite having a veteran squad led by quarterback K.J. Black, the 2009 SWAC Offensive Player of the Year, the Panthers are 1-2 in conference play after falling to Grambling State, 34-17, Saturday before 43,754 at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.

Give coach Rod Broadway and his Grambling State Tigers (2-1, 2-0) credit for avenging last year's first loss to Prairie View since 1986. The Tigers are playing without two-year quarterback Greg Dillon, who was denied a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA during preseason camp, and senior defensive tackle Christian Anthony, who is sidelined this season by a heart condition.

Junior running back Frank Warren rushed for 151 yards and two touchdowns and the Tigers totaled 440 yards in the win over Prairie View. Warren's average of 162.7 rushing yards per game leads the FCS.

THIS, THAT AND THE OTHER

Nine FCS teams remain unbeaten: Appalachian State (4-0), Jacksonville State (4-0), Delaware (4-0), James Madison (3-0), Alcorn State (3-0), Bethune- Cookman (3-0), Brown (2-0), Dartmouth (2-0) and Yale (2-0) ... Penn's loss to Villanova gives Jacksonville State the FCS' longest winning streak at nine, followed by James Madison at eight. Three programs have losing streaks in double digits: Valparaiso (13), Howard (11) and Cornell (10) ... Charleston Southern's trip to the University of Hawaii resulted in a 66-7 loss to the Rainbows. The Bucs' lone touchdown was an 11-yard strike from A.J. Toscano to James Nunley in the second quarter ... A year after running back Jordan Culbreath missed most of Princeton's 2009 season because of aplastic anemia which threatened his life, he scored the game-winning touchdown Saturday night in the Tigers' 36-33, double-overtime triumph over Lafayette. "It feels great to be out there contributing to a win," said Culbreath, the 2008 Ivy League rushing champion who is being eased back to action. He has rushed for 117 yards on 20 carries in Princeton's 1-1 start ... North Dakota State has been getting it done with defense this season, but on Saturday running back D.J. McNorton rushed for 250 yards and three touchdowns in the 38-16 win over South Dakota ... Coach Chris Hatcher earned his first win at Murray State as the Racers trounced UT Martin, 52-16, in the Ohio Valley Conference. Meanwhile, the OVC leader, Southeast Missouri (3-1, 2-0), secured its first three-game winning streak since 2003 with a 23-21 victory over Tennessee Tech. Henry Harris rushed for a career-high 196 yards, including the eventual winning touchdown, in coach Tony Samuel's 50th career win ... San Diego junior defensive end Mario Kurn continues to be a sack machine. His 2.5 sacks on Saturday in a 24-0 stunner over Butler gives Kurn 9.5 sacks through four games ... Considering all the talk of expansion in college football, maybe tiny Assumption College in Worcester, Mass., is ready for the FCS. This month, the Division II program beat Wagner, 24-9, at home and then spoiled Fordham's homecoming on Saturday with a 30-24 win.

SNEAK PEEK

Next weekend's schedule is led by the action in CAA Football. No surprise there.

It starts at the top as defending national champion Villanova (3-1, 1-0) travels to Williamsburg, Va., to take on rival William & Mary (3-1, 1-1). Their most recent meeting was in the FCS national semifinals last December, with Villanova winning 14-13.

Delaware (4-0, 1-0), which after beating Richmond on Saturday will rise from No. 7, visits No. 3 James Madison (3-0, 0-0).

In the Missouri Valley Football Conference, Illinois State (3-1, 2-0) will be at home with a chance to perhaps knock perennial power Southern Illinois (1-3, 0-1) out of the title race. The Salukis had their conference-record 14-game winning snapped by Youngstown State on Saturday.

Furman (2-1, 1-0) goes to Wofford (2-1, 0-0) in a matchup of teams hoping to be factors in the Southern Conference race. Also, Florida A&M (2-2, 2-0) will take its best shot at South Carolina State (2-1, 0-0), which has won 19 straight MEAC games.

Sacks or scores, contact Craig Haley at
chaley@sportsnetwork.com.


Follow Craig Haley on Twitter and Facebook.

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