We’re accustomed to upsets in college football, particularly early in the season, when nobody knows anything and everyone tries to gain footing and determine where they stand. But the first weekend was remarkable, as a bunch of Football Championship Subdivision teams picked up wins, as well as big checks, from Bowl Subdivision opponents.
As the weekend progressed, each result seemed more notable than the last. Towson dumps UConn on Thursday. North Dakota State beats defending Big 12 champ Kansas State on Friday. Northern Iowa wins at Iowa State. McNeese State curb-stomps South Florida. Eastern Illinois runs away from San Diego State. Eastern Washington wins a track meet against ranked Oregon State.
Eight FCS schools beat FBS teams, the most in one weekend since 2000. One comes with an asterisk, but folks will still call it an FBS win.
Towson coach Rob Ambrose said, “When you take the top tier of … the I-AA level, for one team, for one game, we should be able to compete pretty solidly against almost anybody in the country.”
Ambrose said FCS schools, with 63-scholarship limits, couldn’t compete against FBS and its 85-schollie maximum for an entire season. Quality depth would prevail.
“We would all lose in the battle of attrition,” Ambrose said, “but for one game, we should all be able to make a run because we all have good football players.”
Towson received $275,000 and generated plenty of nausea among Husky Nation about the Paul Pasqualoni era, dominating UConn 33-18. Terrance West rushed for 156 yards and two touchdowns. Towson outgained UConn 393-290 and held the Huskies to 84 yards rushing.
North Dakota State is hardly an unknown commodity. The two-time FCS national champs trailed late at Kansas State, but quarterback Brock Jensen directed an 18-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that took up 8½ minutes. The Bison scored the winning TD with 28 seconds remaining for a 24-21 win, and earned $350,000 for the effort.
Eastern Washington upended No. 25 Oregon State 49-46, just the third time that an FCS team beat a ranked FBS team since 2000. The previous two were Appalachian State over Michigan in 2007 and James Madison beating Virginia Tech in 2010.
As others pointd out: Oregon State’s Sean Mannion completed 37 of 43 passes for 422 yards and three touchdowns, and was clearly the second-best quarterback on the field.
EWU’s Vernon Adams threw for 411 yards (23-for-30) and four touchdowns, and rushed for 107 yards and two more TDs. Eastern rolled up 625 yards of offense. The Eagles, who defeated Delaware for the national title three years ago, took home $450,000.
McNeese State set a record for most points scored against an FBS team in a 53-21 win at South Florida – a dismal start for the Willie Taggart regime at USF. The Bulls scored on an 80-yard run on their first play from scrimmage, and then saw McNeese score the next 40 points.
McNeese’s new defensive coordinator, Lance Guidry, spent the previous two years at Western Kentucky with Taggart, but Taggart chose not to take him to South Florida. Think he might have had a big hand in the upset? Nah, me neither. The Cowboys earned $400,000 for the trip.
Eastern Illinois scored the last 21 points and bounced San Diego State 40-19. Eastern quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo completed 31 of 46 passes for 361 yards and three touchdowns. The Panthers ($325,000) had four interceptions, four sacks and 15 pass break-ups.
Northern Iowa, a perennial FCS playoff team, had a rare losing record last season, but started 2013 well with a 28-20 win at Iowa State. The Cyclones had no answer for NIU running back David Johnson, who ran for 199 yards and two touchdowns, and caught two passes for scores. Northern Iowa collected $350,000.
Southern Utah defeated South Alabama 22-21 and picked up a $225,000 check. Last, Samford defeated Georgia State 31-21, which the Samford faithful trumpeted as the program’s first ever FBS win. However, Georgia State’s recent start-up is transitioning into the Sun Belt Conference and FBS.
The Panthers weren’t a very good FCS program, winning just four games the previous two seasons and going 1-10 in their lone season in the CAA. But hey, you take your highlights and milestones where you can get them.