(STATS) – The regionalization of the FCS playoffs isn’t the most popular aspect of the postseason, but it’s led to some terrific matchups following Saturday’s exciting first round.
There will be four second-round games that match conference opponents and the natural nonconference matchup between Jacksonville State and Kennesaw State, which are separated by 90 miles, will get started a year ahead of next year’s scheduled meeting.
Here’s a quick review of the first-round games and a schedule for Round 2 (all games Dec. 2):
Furman 28, Elon 27
Storyline: Donovan Perryman blocked the potential game-winning extra point with 11:26 left, preserving Furman’s 28-27 lead before it went on to reverse a regular-season loss to Elon.
Game Ball: Perryman’s pivotal blocked kick helped make up for Furman’s special teams mistakes – lost fumbles on both a kickoff and punt return that netted 14 Elon points.
Key Stat: Elon averaged only 4.6 yards per pass attempt, gaining 201 yards on 44 passes by quarterback Davis Cheek, down from 8.6 in the teams’ regular-season meeting.
The Takeaway: The Paladins’ strong offensive line opens holes for running back Antonio Wilcox and gives time to quarterback P.J. Blazejowski, which can keep Southern Conference champ Wofford’s ball-control option on the sideline.
Up Next: Furman (8-4) at No. 7 seed Wofford (9-2) in the second round (2 p.m. ET).
New Hampshire 14, Central Connecticut State 0
Storyline: Heavily favored UNH struggled to put away an opponent that didn’t have its starting quarterback (the suspended Jacob Dolegala), but relied on a defense that posted its first shutout in more than seven years.
Game Balls: The visiting Blue Devils must have thought UNH linebackers Quinlen Dean (12 tackles, three tackles for loss, interception) Jared Kuehl (seven tackles, interception, fumble recovery) had a hand in every play.
Key Stat: Having entered the game with a plus-13 turnover margin, CCSU was minus-3 with four turnovers in its first-ever playoff appearance.
The Takeaway: The Wildcats hope they got a bad game out of their system. They’ve struggled to run the ball consistently this season and will need some type of punch to counter the pressure that quarterback Trevor Knight will face when he drops back against Central Arkansas.
Up Next: New Hampshire (8-4) at No. 4 seed Central Arkansas (10-1) in the second round (3 p.m. ET).
Stony Brook 59, Lehigh 29
Storyline: The Seawolves racked up rushing yards in big chunks, led by Donald Liotine’s 133 yards and two touchdowns, to handle an opponent that struggled to stop running attacks this season.
Game Ball: Stony Brook’s offensive line is playing without injured All-American Timon Parris, but the other big men provided terrific running space and allowed only one sack.
Key Stat: The Seawolves’ 622 offensive yards were the most since they gained 693 against Pace in their last playoff season (2012).
The Takeaway: Coach Chuck Priore’s program is 3-0 in first-round games, but is seeking its first second-round win as it heads to defending national champ James Madison. This year’s improved offense gives the Seawolves a puncher’s chance against their CAA counterpart.
Up Next: Stony Brook (10-2) at No. 1 seed James Madison (11-0) in the second round (2 p.m. ET).
Kennesaw State 28, Samford 17
Storyline: Kennesaw reversed a season-opening loss to Samford behind quarterback Chandler Burks’ three total touchdowns and a bend-but-don’t-break defense, which forced Samford’s offense to be one-dimensional with the pass.
Game Ball: Freshman linebacker Bryan Armstrong set the Kennesaw record with 16 tackles, including 11 solos.
Key Stat: Akebren Ralls’ 55-yard pick-6 in the third quarter helped put the game out of reach and gave the Owls at least one interception in every game this season.
The Takeaway: For coach Brian Bohannon’s third-year startup program to continue its 11-game winning streak in the second round, the FCS’ No. 1-ranked rushing attack will have to move the chains against a Jacksonville State defense that is second nationally against the run.
Up Next: Kennesaw State (11-1) at No. 3 seed Jacksonville State (10-1) in the second round (2 p.m. ET).
Weber State 21, Western Illinois 19
Storyline: Quarterback Stefan Cantwell threw three touchdowns, including two to Drew Batchelor, and Weber State ran out the final 4:55 after the Leathernecks closed within 21-19.
Game Ball: Cantwell, the key to the Wildcats filling out an otherwise veteran lineup this past offseason, had 229 yards of total offense and avoided mistakes in his first playoff start.
Key Stat: The Wildcats controlled the ball for 11:19 of the fourth quarter.
The Takeaway: This stellar pairing of teams was basically too good for the first round and the best defense in the Big Sky kept WIU 16 points below its season average. Taron Johnson and Co. will need a similar effort in a second-round matchup of Big Sky co-champs.
Up Next: Weber State (10-2) at No. 8 seed Southern Utah (9-2) in the second round (8 p.m. ET).
South Dakota 38, Nicholls 31
Storyline: The last two teams in the playoff field staged a second-half shootout before a Nicholls fumble just outside the South Dakota goal line with 27 seconds left allowed the Coyotes to survive in their first FCS playoff game.
Game Ball: Coyotes quarterback Chris Streveler threw for 378 yards and four touchdowns and became the Missouri Valley Conference’s single-season leader in total offensive yards (4,283).
Key Stat: Nicholls had a 10:36 advantage in time of possession, but was undone by four turnovers.
The Takeaway: A strong schedule has set the Coyotes up to reverse a late-season slide. They’ll stay in the Southland for a second-round matchup between the FCS No. 1 (Sam Houston) and No. 2 (South Dakota) offenses in yards per game.
Up Next: South Dakota (8-4) at No. 6 seed Sam Houston State (10-1) in the second round (3 p.m. ET).
Northern Iowa 46, Monmouth 7
Storyline: Monmouth making its first FCS playoff appearance and UNI its 19th (in a 41st all-time game) loomed over this rout in every way. Eli Dunne threw for four touchdowns and the Panthers picked off Monmouth’s Kenji Bahar four times.
Game Ball: UNI wide receiver Daurice Fountain caught 10 passes for 139 yards and two touchdowns.
Key Stats: The Panthers had decisive advantages in time of possession (38:37 to 21:23) and offensive yards (520 to 202).
The Takeaway: By restoring a physical run attack since midseason, the Panthers (who pounded Monmouth for 246 rushing yards) are a different team, with a stretch of six wins in seven games that started with a 38-18 triumph at Missouri Valley rival South Dakota State, their second-round opponent.
Up Next: Northern Iowa (8-4) at No. 5 seed South Dakota State (9-2) in the second round (3 p.m. ET).
San Diego 41, Northern Arizona 10
Storyline: The non-scholarship Toreros capped the first round with a road win over a Big Sky foe for the second consecutive year. They are the first two FCS playoff wins in Pioneer Football League history.
Game Ball: With the Jonathan Peterson-anchored defensive line combining on four sacks for 33 lost yards and three quarterback hurries, Northern Arizona’s star Case Cookus struggled to find rhythm.
Key Stats: The Toreros scored on all six trips to the NAU red zone (four touchdowns). Quarterback Anthony Lawrence threw for three touchdowns to raise his season total to 33 against just two interceptions.
The Takeaway: Once again, the Toreros are playing with house money as they head to North Dakota State in the second round for the second consecutive year. They play with a style similar to the Bison, and they’ve been just as dominant, winning nine straight games by 16 or more points.
Up Next: San Diego (10-2) at No. 2 seed North Dakota State (10-1) in the second round (3:30 p.m. ET).