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In the FCS Huddle: Bison get a reminder

By Craig Haley, FCS Executive Director

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The first play shown on Sunday in North Dakota State's film room should not come from Furman's first-round win on Saturday.

It should be the shot heard 'round the sports world on Saturday: Chris Davis' stunning return of a missed field goal to lift Auburn over Alabama on the game's final play.

In a flash, Alabama's bid to win a third straight BCS national championship likely was gone.

It can happen to North Dakota State as well. Not that coach Craig Bohl and his assistants will let the Bison overlook this possibility.

But all of the pressure is on them this postseason because it's been national championship or bust from day one. No ifs, ands or buts about it, anything less and the Bison won't fulfill their mission of capturing a third straight FCS national title.

It's been 13-plus months and 20 games since NDSU last lost a game, and that could become a negative in a tight game, with the Bison freezing up in the moment and playing not to lose instead of to win.

To their credit, the Bison, who host Furman in the second round next weekend, and need four wins to earn the title three-peat, never coasted through the regular season even though the postseason is going to decide everything for them. They kept their play high to rightfully earn the chance to host three playoff games to get back to Frisco, Texas.

Sometimes a loss in the regular season can be the best thing to happen to a team. In the postseason, it's the worst thing.

PLAYOFF FIRST ROUND SCOREBOARD

A roundup of FCS first-round playoff games can be found at http://tinyurl.com/p8on4ma. .

HOPING FOR A BETTER SECOND ROUND

None of the eight first-round games was decided by fewer than 10 points. The winning teams won by as many as 41 points - Jacksonville State over Samford, 55-14 - and by an average of 25.5 points.

GAME BALLS

Offense I - Fordham quarterback Michael Nebrich was 32-of-51 for 413 yards and three first-half touchdowns with one interception, and he rushed for another 38 yards and a touchdown, in the Rams' 37-27 victory over Sacred Heart.

Offense II - South Dakota State running back Zach Zenner went untouched on an 87-yard touchdown sprint and added a 34-yard scoring play to total 249 yards on 30 carries as the Jackrabbits sprung a 26-7 victory at Northern Arizona.

Defense I - It was many happy returns for Furman's Jairus Hollman. He scored on a school-record 90-yard punt return and a 34-yard interception return with 11 tackles (nine solo), including three tackles for loss, in the Paladins' 30-20 win at South Carolina State.

Defense II - It wasn't all offense for Fordham in its win over Sacred Heart. Levon Williams set up the offense with two fumble recoveries and an interception, along with eight tackles.

Special Teams - Northern Arizona didn't want to face long scoring drives with its quarterbacks, and South Dakota State punter Ethan Sawyer pinned the Lumberjacks inside their 20-yard line four times on his seven punts. He averaged 44.6 yards per punt with a long of 50 yards.

CONFERENCE SCOREBOARD

Tennessee State and Jacksonville State both won games on a day the Ohio Valley Conference ended a 13-year, 19-game streak of playoff losses.

Records of the 11 FCS conferences in the FCS playoffs:

Ohio Valley - 2-0

Big South - 1-0

CAA - 1-0

Missouri Valley - 1-0

Southland - 1-0

Patriot - 1-1

Southern - 1-1

Northeast - 0-1

Pioneer - 0-1

Big Sky - 0-2

Mid-Eastern Athletic - 0-2

FCS AWARDS

The winners of the four major awards in the FCS - the Walter Payton (outstanding player), Buck Buchanan (outstanding defensive player), Jerry Rice (FCS freshman of the year) and Eddie Robinson (FCS coach of the year) - will be announced on Dec. 16.

The FCS Awards can be found at http://tinyurl.com/yhv6oh8.

THE PICKS

Week 14 Record: 8-2 (.800)

Season Record: 623-219 (.740)

Saturday Dec. 7

All Times ET

FCS Playoff Second Round

Fordham (12-1) at X-No. 7 seed Towson (10-2), 1 p.m. (ESPN3). Back in the day - yeah, 1997-2003 - these two teams played together in the Patriot League. Towson's cornerback duo of Jordan Love and Tye Smith face a difficult assignment.

Tennessee State (10-3) at X-No. 2 Eastern Illinois (11-1), 2 p.m. (ESPN3) - You don't want to face a rested EIU offense.

X-Coastal Carolina (11-2) at No. 8 Montana (10-2), 2 p.m. (ESPN3) - Hah, think anybody in Missoula will notice this pick?

X-New Hampshire (8-4) at No. 5 Maine (10-2), 2 p.m. (ESPN3) - Wildcats are hot at the right time of the season.

Furman (8-5) at X-No. 1 North Dakota State (11-0), 3:30 p.m. (ESPN3) - As long as the Bison don't attempt a 57-yard field goal.

South Dakota State (9-4) at X-No. 3 Eastern Washington (10-2), 4 p.m. (ESPN3) - Zach Zenner is 56 rushing yards shy of a second straight 2,000-yard campaign.

Jacksonville State (10-3) at X-No. 6 McNeese State (10-2), 7 p.m. (ESPN3) - Visiting Gamecocks were the most impressive team in the first round.

X-Sam Houston State (9-4) at No. 4 Southeastern Louisiana (10-2), 8 p.m. (ESPN3) - Let the offensive fireworks begin.

SWAC Championship Game

X-Southern (8-4) vs. Jackson State (8-3) at Houston's Reliant Stadium, 2 p.m. (ESPNU) - Jackson State and the East Division ruled in the regular season, but West Division teams have won the last five championship games (although Texas Southern later vacated the 2010 title).

12/01 00:22:08 ET

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Scoreboard
Local
5th
NOR 0
DUR 0
 
Final
CHC 1
CIN 4
3rd
PIT 2
MIL 0
 
4th
WAS 1
STL 0
 
3rd
CLE 0
TOR 0
 
2nd
DET 0
ANA 2
 
3rd
NYM 0
ATL 1
 
3rd
BOS 0
BAL 1
 
3rd
TAM 0
NYY 4
 
2nd
MIA 2
SEA 2
 
8:05pm Tonight
TEX
CWS
8:10pm Tonight
KAN
MIN
8:40pm Tonight
COL
PHI
10:05pm Tonight
OAK
HOU
10:10pm Tonight
LOS
ARI
10:10pm Tonight
SDP
SFG
1st Intermission
TAM 0
MON 0
 
1st
BOS 0
DET 0
 
10:00pm Tonight
ANA
DAL
5th
NOR 0
DUR 0