One thing that's been learned about FCS teams this fall — they're closely matched.
Even North Dakota State.
OK, that's an overstatement with the three-time defending national champion, but even the Bison had a subpar performance in their only fall game, and that kept to the script of competitive FCS vs. FCS matchups.
Six of the eight games have been in doubt until the final minutes and another was competitive into the fourth quarter.
The first game of the college football season set the tone, with Central Arkansas beating Austin Peay, 24-17, at the annual FCS Kickoff. Austin Peay went ahead 17-16 with 1:40 remaining, but Central Arkansas quarterback Breylin Smith and wide receiver Lujuan Winningham connected for a 10-yard, game-winning touchdown pass at the 0:34 mark.
On Sept. 26, Central Arkansas was at it again versus Missouri State, taking a 27-20 lead early in the fourth quarter and then withstanding the opposing Bears' three trips into UCA territory. Also that day, Eastern Kentucky rolled past The Citadel, 37-14 — the lone exception to the close FCS action.
A week later, Eastern Kentucky wound up falling 33-30 to Houston Baptist and quarterback Bailey Zappe. North Dakota State trailed in the fourth quarter for the first time in 28 games, but fullback Hunter Luepke scored two touchdowns in the final 7:35 to provide a 39-28 win over Central Arkansas.
Jacksonville State beat Mercer, 34-28, in a downpour on Oct. 10 and held off North Alabama, 24-17, last Saturday.
Also last weekend, Central Arkansas — the walking billboard of the FCS season — overcame a halftime deficit in a rematch at Missouri State and posted a second-half shutout in a 33-24 triumph.
This Saturday, there are two FCS vs. FCS games: Abilene Christian and Stephen F. Austin will square off in Arlington, Texas, and Eastern Kentucky will host Central Arkansas.
— Written by Craig Haley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Haley has covered the FCS level since 1999 and is the national writer for www.fcs.football. He appears frequently on radio shows and podcasts to discuss everything FCS. Follow him on Twitter @CraigHaley.
(Photo courtesy of Central Arkansas Athletics)