CI Week 12 Highlights

The FCS playoff bracket is set and the CI Family is well represented. Checking in at the #1 overall seed is James Madison with ILB Coach Byron Thweatt (@Thweattster32) and RB Coach De'Rail Sims (@DeRailSims). The Dukes have a first round bye and will await the winner of Lehigh vs. Stony Brook. Lehigh OffCoor/QB Scott Brisson (@Scott_Brisson) and the Mountain Hawks earned an automatic bid by virtue of winning the Patriot League after winning five of their last six games. In the bottom half of that bracket, Northern Iowa and CB Coach Jeff Burris will host Monmouth in the first round after finishing the regular season on a three-game winning streak. On the other side of the bracket, Wofford Defensive Run Game Coordinator/DL Jerome Riase (@JRiase) and CB Coach Rob Greene (@CoachRGreene) earned the #7 seed and a first round bye. They will host the winner of Elon vs. Furman in the second round. At the FBS level, both Arizona State DL Coach Michael Slater (@mlslater) and UTSA RB Coach Everette Sands (@EveretteSands) clinched bowl eligibility with wins this weekend. Keep reading for more highlights from Week 12.

Bengals catch breath, Broncos
For the first time in 42 years, the Bengals left Denver with a win after beating the Broncos 20-17. Hopefully, the Bengals defensive players were able to get some rest on the flight back to Cincinnati after concluding a four-game stretch during which they played 119 more snaps than the defenses of their opponents. Factor in the altitude at Mile High Stadium and the Bengals' performance on defense becomes even more impressive. CB Dre Kirkpatrick started things off on the right foot when he returned an interception 101 yards to set up Cincinnati's first touchdown of the day. Kirkpatrick also ended things when he broke up a pass intended for Denver WR Emmanuel Sanders on fourth down with less than a minute to play. In between, LB Vontaze Burfict and DL Carlos Dunlap led the charge for Cincinnati's defense as the former posted 12 tackles, one sack and one forced fumble while the latter finished with four tackles, two sacks, four quarterback hurries and one pass breakup. With the win, the Bengals improve to 4-6 on the year and are now just one game back in the race for an AFC wild card. Congratulations to DL Coach Jacob Burney on the dominant performance!

Memphis defeats SMU 66-45 to claim AAC West Division title
By the end of the year, DL Coach Paul Randolph (@CoachPRandolph) and the rest of the Memphis staff might be qualified to work as meteorologists. In Week 2, the Tigers were scheduled to play at UCF and flew all the way to Orlando before finding out that the game was postponed due to Hurricane Irma. On Saturday night, weather came into play again as lightning forced a 57-minute delay early in the fourth quarter of Memphis' game versus SMU. At the time of the delay, the Tigers led 52-38 as both offenses had found their rhythms. But the Memphis defense used the delay to regroup and came out of the break with a newfound intensity as it forced three-and-outs on the Mustangs' next two possessions. On SMU's third possession after the delay, LB Genard Avery forced a fumble that DB Josh Perry recovered. The Memphis offense took full advantage of the defense's contributions as it reeled off two more touchdowns to seal the win for the Tigers. Congratulations to Randolph who is in his second year at Memphis after serving on the Arizona State staff for four seasons. In his 20-year coaching career, Randolph has coordinated defenses at Arizona State, Pitt, Tulsa and Rice in addition to coaching defensive lines at Alabama and West Virginia.

Schor’s 3 TDs give 11-0 James Madison 31-3 win over Elon
Leading up to last weekend’s clash between the top two teams in the CAA, Elon Head Coach Curt Cignetti was asked to comment on what makes James Madison’s defense so good. Cignetti replied, “Well, they cover well, they rush the passer well, their linebackers really run laterally well. And very rarely do you see them bust assignments.” LB Kyre Hawkins validated Cignetti’s assessment with an impressive performance that included a game-high 11 tackles to lead a Duke defense that yielded just 222 yards of total offense to the Phoenix. JMU’s effort on defense capped a regular season in which it did not give up more than 14 points in a single game. Offensively, QB Bryon Schor scored three touchdowns and RB Trai Sharp rushed for 68 yards on 11 carries (6.2 ypc). Overall, the Dukes racked up 190 yards on the ground in the win. Having concluded the regular season undefeated for the first time since 1975, the Dukes now turn their attention toward the playoffs where they will look to claim a national title for the second straight year. Congratulations to Thweatt and Sims who have helped lead JMU to a nation’s best 23 consecutive wins and an overall record of 25-1 (24-0 against FCS opponents) in their two-year tenures with the program. Thweatt arrived in Harrisonburg after a stint as the head coach at Virginia State and prior to that he coached the linebackers at Richmond where he worked with eight players who earned All-CAA honors. Sims joined the JMU staff after serving in the same role at Western Carolina for three years. Last year, he directed a rushing attack that broke the CAA single-season rushing record with 4,125 yards. Following the 2014 season, Sims was selected to participate in the NCAA and NFL Coaches Academy.

Defense locks up Ragin' Cajuns Homecoming victory
After the first four weeks of the season, Louisiana stood at 1-3 and ranked dead last among 129 FBS teams in Scoring Defense, allowing an average of 53.8 points per game. The Ragin' Cajuns had a bye the last weekend of September and Head Coach Mark Hudspeth used the extra time to bring in a familiar face. James Willis, who helped guide UL to two bowl wins as defensive coordinator from 2013-14, was hired as a defensive analyst at the beginning of October and the turnaround since then has been nothing short of remarkable. Louisiana has won four of its five Sun Belt games since Willis' addition and has only given up an average of 23 points per game excluding an out-of-conference matchup at Ole Miss. The most recent win came over New Mexico State in a contest that remained tied into the fourth quarter. Louisiana QB Jordan Davis connected with Ryheem Malone on a 33-yard scoring strike to give the Cajuns a 41-34 lead with 10:21 left to play and from there the defense took over. After forcing an NMSU punt, LB Jacques Boudreaux, LB Justin Middleton, and DB Koa Haynes each recorded an interception on the Aggies' next three drives to clinch the victory. With the win, the Cajuns are back to .500 and are one win away from reaching a bowl game for the sixth time in seven years. Congratulations to Willis who spent the 2015 and 2016 seasons as the assistant linebackers coach for the New Orleans Saints. In 2009, he served as the assistant head coach and linebackers coach for Alabama where he worked with Butkus Award winner Rolando McClain and helped the Crimson Tide win the national championship. Willis has also served as defensive coordinator at Texas Tech and for the Virginia Destroyers where he helped the team win the 2011 UFL Championship.

Stanford earns the Axe, the hard way
In the 120th edition of the Big Game, Stanford picked up a 17-14 win marking its eighth consecutive win over the Bears - the longest streak by either program in the series. But unlike several of the wins since 2010 that came in lopsided fashion, Saturday’s contest was in doubt until the final minutes. Ultimately, Stanford was able to salt away the game with a 14-play drive that consumed the game’s final 7:25, but it was a key play by safety Ben Edwards and the Cardinal defense that setup that final drive. Cal had cut an 11-point Stanford lead to three and had driven across midfield poised to tie the game or take the lead. On a 1st and 10, Edwards picked off a pass from Cal QB Kyle Bowers and ended any momentum the Bears had. Edwards also forced a fumble to anchor the backend of a Cardinal defense that effectively contained a Bear offense that entered Saturday averaging over 29 points per game. Congratulations to Defensive Assistant Toure Carter (@ToureCarter) who is in his second season at Stanford after serving as the defensive and special teams coordinator at The King's Academy in California. Last summer, he completed the Bill Walsh Minority Coaching Fellowship with the Denver Broncos.

Villanova caps season with a win
Malik Reaves ended his collegiate career on a high note as the senior cornerback recorded his fourth career interception and registered five tackles in Villanova's win on Saturday. Congratulations to Special Teams Coordinator/CB Ola Adams (@CoachOlaAdams) who completed his third season at Villanova this year. From 2015-16, Adams coached the Wildcat running backs and mentored an All-CAA selection at the position each season. He previously coached the wide receivers at Columbia and has also served as the associate head coach and defensive coordinator at Cortland State. He has completed internships with the San Francisco 49ers and Chicago Bears as well as participating in the NCAA and NFL Coaches Academy in 2013.

Quick Hits
  • Mississippi State rallied from deficits of 14-0 and 21-14 to beat Arkansas 28-21. Congratulations to Bulldog DL Coach Brian Baker (@MSUCoachBaker)!
  • East Carolina picked up its most impressive win of the year with a 48-20 dismantling of Cincinnati. Congratulations to Pirates RB Coach Jason Nichols (@CoachJMNichols)!
  • Morehead State finished its season with a 21-14 win over Davidson. Congratulations to Eagles Head Coach Rob Tenyer (@RobTenyerMSU)!
  • Albany closed out its season with an exclamation point, shutting out New Hampshire 15-0. The Great Danes held the Wildcats to just 122 yards, including -11 rushing yards. Congratulations to DL Coach Delbert Cowsette (@coachcowsetteua)!
  • Sacramento State beat UC Davis 52-47 and finished its season with three straight wins in which it scored a total of 151 points. Congratulations to Hornets SpecTeams/TE Fred Kelley (@Coach_Kelley)!
  • Army Prep claimed the prep version of the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy with a blowout 34-0 win over Navy Prep. Two weeks ago, the Black Knights defeated Air Force Prep 22-21. Congratulations to Head Coach Andy Wolfrum (@andywolfrum)!

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