CI Week 1 Highlights


After an abbreviated slate of college games in Week 0 that featured wins for Albany Assoc. Head Coach/OffCoor/QB Jared Ambrose (@CoachJambrose), UMass Senior Defensive Analyst Tony Brinson (@CoachBrins), and Albany OLB Coach Chris Calabrese (@Coach_Calabrese), the college football season got underway in earnest with a full slate of games over the past four days. Please enjoy this week’s highlights below:
Florida A&M defeats Jackson State, 28-10, in the 2023 Orange Blossom Classic
Willie Simmons (@HCWillieSimmons) knows his coaching history. Speaking with ESPN’s commentators at halftime, the Florida A&M head coach paid homage to Jake Gaither when describing his team’s mindset going into the second half with a 28-0 lead – they were going to try to kill a mosquito with an axe. The late Hall of Fame coach and athletic director at FAMU, Gaither coined the phrase to mean showing no mercy. While the Rattlers didn’t extend their lead in the second half, the message was delivered no less emphatically. The road to the SWAC title now goes through Tallahassee. Special teams jumpstarted FAMU against the Tigers when WR Marcus Riley returned the opening kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown. The third phase was just getting started for Simmons and the Rattlers. On Jackson State’s first possession, a botched snap on a field goal attempt ended when FAMU DB Kendall Bohler took down the JSU holder in the backfield for a 27-yard loss. Later in the first half, WR Jah’Marae Sheread added punt returns of 50 and 45 yards. Sheread also shined on offense, hauling in five catches for 90 yards and one touchdown. Defensively, LB Allen Smith, Jr. dominated, recording four tackles, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery for the Green and Orange. Congratulations to Simmons on the statement win! Since dropping the 2022 Orange Blossom Classic, Simmons has guided the Rattlers to 10 straight wins. Now in his sixth year leading his hometown school, he has averaged nine wins over the past three seasons and reached the playoffs in 2021, marking the first time the program had accomplished the feat in 20 years. Simmons spent the 2015-17 seasons as the head coach at Prairie View A&M and has coordinated offenses at Middle Tennessee State and Alcorn State, where he helped the Braves win the SWAC in 2014.
Garrett Shrader passes for four touchdowns in Syracuse’s 65-0 rout of Colgate
Syracuse Offensive Coordinator/QB Jason Beck (@Coach_Beck7) kept the statisticians hard at work on Saturday afternoon as the Orange rewrote the record books. New record for total offense? Check. New record for passing touchdowns in a game? Check. New personal records across the board? Check, check and check. Yes, the opponent may have been FCS but Colgate is no typical FCS program. Under Head Coach Stan Dakosty, the Raiders have featured a defense that has led the nation in multiple categories and propelled the team to a national championship game. Those credentials provided little resistance to the high-flying Orange as Beck’s charges racked up 677 yards of offense. Starting QB Garrett Shrader set a new personal best with four passing touchdowns to four different receivers before giving way to backup QB Carlos Del Rio-Wilson who added three more scores. On the ground, RB LeQuint Allen, Jr. gained 107 yards and one touchdown in just one half of action. Overall, seven different Syracuse offensive players reached pay dirt and six different players logged at least 50 yards rushing or receiving in a well-balanced onslaught. Congratulations to Beck who is in his first season as offensive coordinator after focusing on the Orange quarterbacks in 2022. He arrived in upstate New York after a six-year stint at Virginia where he mentored a pair of future NFL signal callers. Beck played quarterback at BYU and spent two stints on staff with the Cougars, including as quarterbacks coach from 2013-15 when he worked with current New Orleans Saint Taysom Hill.
Dins defense dominates, propels #6 Furman past Tennessee Tech in opener
Furman enjoyed an incredibly successful 2022 season, posting a 10-3 record to go along with a second-round playoff appearance and top 10 national ranking. The Paladins were bolstered by an opportunistic pass defense that led the FCS with 18 interceptions. On Thursday night, they picked up right where they left off, picking off four Tennessee Tech passes en route to a 45-10 blowout win. All levels of the Furman defense got in on the action with NG Xavier Stephens, FS Jack Rhodes, LB Dan Scianna and CB Travis Blackshear all recording interceptions, the latter two making house calls with pick-sixes. Stephens anchored the Paladin defense, adding three tackles to go along with his pick while fellow NG Sirod Cook chipped in with a half-sack. In total, the Furman defense forced six takeaways and limited the Golden Eagles to 8-for-20 on third and fourth downs. Congratulations to Furman DL Coach Kevin Lewis (@CoachKLewDL) on the strong start! Lewis is in his fourth year at Furman and has mentored three all-conference selections in his first three seasons. He arrived in Greenville after a stint as the defensive line coach at Army and has also coached the position at William & Mary, Dartmouth and Richmond. At Richmond, Lewis mentored First Team All-American Martin Parker who helped the Spiders reach the FCS Quarterfinals before playing professionally with the NY Giants.
Houston Christian earns 66-0 rout of Arkansas Baptist in Braxton Harris’ debut as head coach
As a defensive lineman at UNC, Issac Mooring (@CoachMooring) lined up alongside 6x NFL All-Pro Julius Peppers. Now the defensive line coach at Houston Christian, Mooring has worked with a national player of the year, four All-Americans, NFL draft picks and countless all-conference selections. He has played with and coached elite defensive linemen and game changing pass rushers of all different types. Few, however, have taken a path similar to HCU DE/LB Jalyx Hunt. After playing two seasons as a safety at Cornell, Hunt moved down south with knife and fork in hand. Packing on 30 pounds of muscle without losing his explosiveness, Hunt has caught the attention of NFL scouts while honing his pass rush technique under Mooring’s watch. Last month, Hunt was named to the Reese’s Senior Bowl Watchlist and on Saturday night he wasted no time in showing why he has a chance to play on Sundays. On Arkansas Baptist’s fourth possession, Hunt dropped into coverage, stepped in front of a wheel route, intercepted the pass and returned it 16 yards for a score to put the Huskies up 21-0. Before giving way to backups in a blowout win, Hunt logged three tackles and a tackle-for-loss to go along with his pick-six. DE Zae Smith also had a strong performance for Mooring’s unit, notching eight tackles on the night. Congratulations on the win to Mooring as well as to Chris Grimes (@CoachG_85) who recently joined the HCU staff as Senior Advisor to the Head Coach. Mooring is in his fourth year at HCU and last season mentored a defensive line that finished 19th nationally in Sacks and 25th in Tackles-for-Loss. He previously coached defensive lines at Texas State, Gardner-Webb and North Greenville. Grimes arrived in Houston after spending the 2022 campaign as the defensive backs coach at East Tennessee State. He previously coached defensive backs at Gardner-Webb, where he worked alongside Mooring from 2014-17, before taking over as the Runnin’ Bulldogs’ defensive coordinator in 2018.
Pembroke Wins Two Rivers Classic against Fayetteville State
In 15 years at Chowan, including the last two as the Hawks’ head coach, Mark Hall (@CoachHallUNCP) led the program to unprecedented heights. In his first year at the helm in 2021, Hall’s team posted a 7-3 record which marked a four-win improvement from the previous season, the most wins for the program since 1983 and best win-loss mark as an NCAA member. Chowan followed that campaign up with another 7-3 regular season in 2022, culminating in the school’s first-ever CIAA North Division title. The Hawks’ one kryptonite, however, was Fayetteville State, as the Broncos edged out a 13-10 win in the regular season and again escaped over Hall’s squad with another three-point win, 31-28, in the CIAA Championship Game. In December, Hall accepted the head coaching position at UNC Pembroke and on Friday night he secured revenge over last year’s nemesis. Pembroke kicker Ty Woods nailed a 24-yard field goal with under 10 seconds left in the game as the Braves rallied for a 19-17 win over the Broncos. QB Caleb Pierce directed the Pembroke offense with 17 completions for 259 yards and one touchdown while DB Sean Hill led the Brave defense with 12 tackles and a pass breakup. Congratulations to Hall on the debut win!
Bluefield State blasts Livingstone in opener
After a 41-year hiatus, football returned to Bluefield State in winning fashion in 2021. In two seasons as an independent, Head Coach Tony Coaxum (@CoachCoax17), Assoc. Head Coach/OffCoor/QB Rashard Alston (@CoachAlston5) and the rest of the Big Blue staff fought their way to an 8-7 cumulative record, knocking off several well-established programs along the way. Their yeoman’s work was sufficient in garnering the attention of the CIAA and in July, Bluefield State officially accepted an invitation to rejoin the historic conference. While Saturday’s matchup against fellow CIAA member Livingstone was technically classified as a nonconference affair, the Big Blue announced their arrival to the rest of the league loud and clear. Getting the nod at starting quarterback shortly before kickoff, true freshman Jai’que Hart set a new program record with five passing touchdowns as BSU routed Livingstone, 41-7. Perry Wilder III led the Big Blue receiving corps in receptions with three catches for 35 yards and one score as Hart spread the wealth with 10 different receivers catching passes. It was also a team effort defensively as 27 defenders were able to log tackles, led by LB TJ Gunter and DB Corey Watkins who each recorded seven stops. Congratulations to Coaxum and Alston on the resounding victory! Prior to taking over at Bluefield State, Coaxum spent the 2019 season as the assistant special teams coach at Kansas. In 2018, he served as the special teams coordinator and cornerbacks coach at Central Michigan and previously spent two seasons as the assistant special teams coach for the Broncos where he helped the team win Super Bowl 50. A West Point graduate, Coaxum served as an assistant coach for the Black Knights for seven years. Alston was promoted to offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach prior to this season after working with the team’s running backs and wide receivers in his first two years. He previously worked with receivers at Hastings College and has also worked with USA Football.
Grizzlies defeat Oaklanders for first season-opening win since 2014
Down to his third string quarterback after a pair of injuries at the position, there was no panic from Adams State Head Coach Jarrell Harrison (@CoachJHarrison_) or his team. Instead, QB Connor Underhill entered the game and led Adams State on three touchdown drives in the fourth quarter as the Grizzlies were able to pull away for a 35-16 win over Lincoln University. The first score came on a 65-yard strike from Underhill to WR Aaron Johnson with 13:25 remaining. From there, ASU’s ground game took over as Daylen Boddie and Rasheed Rankin both reached the end zone on one-yard rushes to apply the finishing touches. Defensively, DB Daniel Mendoza was flying around all night, racking up a team-leading eight tackles, two tackles-for-loss, one sack and two pass break-ups. Congratulations to Harrison on the winning start! Now in his third season as ASU’s head coach, Harrison served as the Grizzlies’ defensive backs coach and special teams coordinator and has also coached the team's running backs since arriving in Alamosa in 2016. As a player, Harrison was an honorable mention All-Big 12 safety for Missouri and helped the Tigers climb as high as #6 in the national rankings.
Shepherd rallies past Southern Connecticut State in season opener
Coming off of back-to-back Division II semifinal appearances, championship expectations have become the standard at Shepherd. But for a team that lost six All-Americans from 2022, including Harlon Hill Trophy winner QB Tyson Bagent, returning to the top of the mountain gets harder each time for the Rams. This year’s trek started with a test against a much improved Southern Connecticut State squad. The Owls came flying out of the gate, jumping out to a 7-0 lead and taking a 14-7 advantage into halftime. Needing a spark, the Rams got one from special teams when freshman DB Miles Greer returned a punt 86 yards for a touchdown to tie the score at 14-14 midway through the third quarter. Greer also contributed four tackles on defense as Shepherd traded punches with SCSU for the rest of the game. Following an Owl touchdown that gave the visitors a 26-21 lead with 1:28 to play, Shepherd WR Marion Haley returned the ensuing kickoff for 31 yards to set the Ram offense up with great field position. Five plays later, QB Seth Morgan took advantage when he found TE/FB Dustin Fisher for a 12-yard scoring pass to complete the comeback. Congratulations to Shepherd Special Teams Coor./DB Luke Wright (@CoachLukeWright) on the win and big games from Greer and Haley! Now in his third season at Shepherd, Wright previously spent three seasons as the receivers coach and special teams coordinator at Fairmont State. At Fairmont, Wright helped the Fighting Falcons set a new school record for total offense in a season as the Falcons posted a 9-2 record and a second-place finish in the Mountain East Conference in 2018. Wright also boasts Division I experience over two stints at Towson.

Happy Labor Day!

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