Photo: Florida A&M Athletics

FCS Football Recap: Week 1 Takeaways

Week 0 was just the appetizer for the 2023 season with only three FCS football games, but we had a full slate of FCS football this past weekend for Week 1.

Below are some major takeaways from all the Week 1 FCS action.

Florida A&M Makes Statement Against Jackson State

The pressure on Florida A&M entering the Orange Blossom Classic was at an all-time high, but the Rattlers delivered an impressive 28-10 win over Jackson State.

Wide receiver Marcus Riley opened the game with a 96-yard kickoff return to stun the Tigers. The Rattlers used the momentum to build a 28-0 lead in the first half. Florida A&M established a strong rushing attack that totaled 207 rushing yards and averaged 5.2 yards per carry. Terrell Jenning led the Rattlers with 75 rushing yards, while Jaquez Yant accounted for 72 rushing yards and one touchdown.

There were questions about who would emerge at EDGE for the Rattlers and that was answered on Sunday afternoon. Defensive end Anthony Dunn Jr. had a breakout performance with four tackles, two tackles for loss, and two sacks. Florida A&M held the Tigers to 72 rushing yards, 2-of-14 on third-down attempts, and forced two turnovers. 

FCS Programs Winless Against FBS Competition

It was a tough weekend for the subdivision against Group of 5 and Power-Five opponents. FCS programs went a combined 0-42 against FBS teams in Week 1. Last season the FCS finished Week 1 with two FBS upsets and finished the season with eight upsets. 

Rhode Island had one of the most impressive performances against Georgia State on Thursday. Quarterback Kasim Hill finished the game with 408 passing yards and five total touchdowns as the Rams fell only seven points short of the first FBS upset of the season. The Rams rolled up over 500 total yards, but two turnovers were the difference in this matchup.

UAlbany followed up their impressive Week 0 win over Fordham with a competitive game against Marshall. The Great Danes held Marshall scoreless in the first half but allowed 14 unanswered points in the second half. Quarterback Reese Poffenbarger finished the game with 194 passing yards and two total touchdowns, but was sacked seven times. 

Howard trailed Eastern Michigan 30-6 early in the first half but scored 17 unanswered points over the next two quarters. The Bison established the rushing attack with 204 rushing yards, led by Eden James with 96 rushing yards (10.7 YPC). The Eagles scored 17 points on Howard’s special teams mistakes and made a late field goal to escape with a 33-23 win.

Morgan State Shocks No. 18 Richmond

Morgan State scored 10 unanswered points in the fourth quarter as the Bears earned the first win against a ranked opponent since 2018. Running back Jabriel Johnson scored the game-winning touchdown on a 10-yard run with 6:24 left in the game. Before this weekend, Richmond had never lost a home opener at Robins Stadium and won the previous 17 home openers. 

The Bears defense was dominant throughout this game, including a crucial strip-sack by linebacker Erick Hunter to set up the game-winning drive. The Spiders were held to 264 total yards, 3.9 yards per play, and 3-of-12 on third down attempts. All-American Elijah Williams finished the game with 8 tackles and two tackles for loss. Linebacker Erick Hunter had an impressive performance with 11 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, and one forced fumble.

Offensively, Morgan State struggled to establish consistent drives but generated explosive plays in key moments. Running back J.J. Davis led the Bears with 73 rushing yards (6.1 YPC) while running back Jabriel Johnson contributed 44 rushing yards and one touchdown. 

Bison, Bobcats Utilize Explosive Rushing Attacks In Dominant Performances

North Dakota State silenced much of the offseason chatter about the question marks surrounding this program. The Bison exploded for 337 rushing yards (8.6 YPC) and three touchdowns in a 35-10 win over the Eagles. Quarterback Cole Payton showed his explosiveness with 104 rushing yards on only six attempts (17.3 YPC), including a 70-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter. TaMerik Williams led all Bison running backs with 93 rushing yards and one touchdown. 

Montana State may have been without offensive coordinator Taylor Housewright, but the offense did not miss a beat in a dominant 63-20 win over Utah Tech. The Bobcats racked up 407 rushing yards (7.7 YPC) and seven rushing touchdowns, including three touchdowns from freshman running back Scottre Humphrey. Another freshman, Jared White, had an impressive game with 84 rushing yards and one touchdown. The Bobcats continue to show elite depth in the running back room, which should be a staple of the Montana State offense throughout the season. 

North Alabama Changing The Narrative Under Dearmon

North Alabama received some attention after a competitive Week 0 loss to No. 20 Mercer. The Lions continued to build momentum under new head coach Brent Dearmon as North Alabama upset Chattanooga 41-27 on Saturday. 

Last week the Lions struggled offensively, but showed massive improvements in all phases of the game against the Mocs. Wide receiver Takairee Kenebrew exploded with a historic performance as he finished with five receptions for 172 receiving yards and three touchdowns. Quarterback Noah Walters solidified his spot as QB1 with 271 passing yards and four touchdowns while running back Jalyn Daniels led the Lions with 147 rushing yards (18.4 YPC) and two rushing touchdowns.

North Alabama responded to adversity in the second half after the Mocs scored 27 unanswered points to take an early fourth-quarter lead. The Lions responded with 21 unanswered points of their own, including an 81-yard touchdown run by Jalyn Daniels with one minute remaining in the game. Dearmon has brought a different energy around this program and has set the stage for the Lions to be future contenders in the UAC. 

Other Notable Scores:

No. 4 William & Mary 34, Campbell 24

No. 5 Holy Cross 42, Merrimack 20

No. 8 Idaho 42, Lamar 17

No. 10 Sacramento State 38, Nicholls State 24

No. 14 Montana 35, Butler 20

No. 17 North Dakota 55, Drake 7

No. 22 Delaware 37, Stony Brook 13

Hampton 35, Grambling State 31

Alabama State 14, Southern 10

Southern Illinois 49, Austin Peay 23

Prairie View A&M 37, Texas Southern 34

Tarleton State 52, McNeese State 34

AUDIO: Week 1 FCS Football Recap

RELATED: FCS Football Recap: Week 0 Takeaways

Follow @The Bluebloods on Twitter for ongoing coverage of FCS football news, notes, and opinions. You can also follow Zach McKinnell on Twitter @zachmckinnell

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