CI Week 15 Highlights

The NFL regular season is winding down and several CI coaches are in the thick of the playoff race. In one of the most surreal games of the season, the Bills and WR Coach Phil McGeoghan (@PhilMcGeoghan) stayed in contention for an AFC Wild Card by pulling out a 13-7 overtime victory over the Colts in the middle of a blizzard. While conditions made throwing the ball near impossible, Bills WR Kelvin Benjamin made a couple of fantastic catches in the final minute of the first half to provide two of the few offensive highlights of the game. At the FCS level, two CI coaches remain in contention for the national championship heading into next week's semifinals. On the jobs front, several head coaching hires have occurred in the past week. Three head coaching positions are still open at the FBS level while 12 head jobs remain open in the FCS. Movement at the assistant level has only just begun with a wave of changes expected to occur after next week's early signing period. Stay up-to-date on all the moves by checking out the attached spreadsheet and keep reading for more highlights from Week 15. 

Falcons rise to occasion in 20-17 win against Saints
Last year, the Falcons sat at 7-5 after 12 games before winning four games to close out the regular season and two more in the playoffs to reach the Super Bowl. They entered Thursday night's matchup versus New Orleans with a 7-5 record once again and hopes of closing out the regular season in similar fashion to last year. For much of the game a win seemed improbable, but a clutch kick by Matt Bryant and a huge interception by Deion Jones in the end zone were just enough to put Atlanta over the top. Bryant connected on his first field goal attempt from 28 yards out in the first quarter to level the game at 3-3. But the Falcons struggled on offense and found themselves down 17-10 at the end of the third quarter. QB Matt Ryan connected with WR Mohamed Sanu on an 8-yard touchdown pass to tie the score at 17-17 and then Bryant converted a 52-yard field goal with under four minutes left to give Atlanta a 20-17 lead. Bryant's second field goal gave him 1,000 points for his career as a Falcon. Matt Bosher did well with his two punts, booming one 49 yards and recording 4.91 seconds of hangtime on the second. Congratulations to Asst. Special Teams Coach Eric Sutulovich on the performance and win!

James Madison beats Weber State on last-second field goal in FCS quarterfinals
It may be an overly used cliche, but James Madison truly displayed the heart of a champion on Friday night. The Dukes improved to 13-0 on the season and increased their overall win streak to 25, but not until after rallying to stun an upset-minded Weber State squad. James Madison opened the game in their usual dominant fashion, outgaining the Wildcats 284-40 in the first half, but an early interception helped Weber State stay within striking distance. Weber State scored a touchdown for the only points of the third quarter to take a 14-10 lead into the final quarter. After the teams traded touchdowns, JMU kicker Ethan Ratke converted a 40-yard field goal halfway through the fourth quarter to cut the visitors' lead to 21-20. Momentum appeared to be on the Dukes' side but a 36-yard touchdown pass by Weber State to take a 28-20 lead with just over three minutes to play silenced the 13,497 JMU fans in attendance. On the ensuing possession, WR Riley Stapleton hauled in a 40-yard touchdown reception on 3rd down and 9 to keep the Dukes alive. RB Trai Sharp ran in the two-point conversion to level the score at 28-28. All-CAA linebackers Kyre Hawkins and Brandon Hereford teamed up for a key stop on the Wildcats' next possession to force a three-and-out. With just over a minute remaining, JMU drove 39 yards in eight plays to setup a 46-yard field goal attempt for Ratke. The redshirt freshman nailed the longest field goal in the program's playoff history and a personal career best to complete the stunning comeback. Next up for the Dukes is a semifinal matchup versus #5 South Dakota State. Congratulations and good luck to RB Coach De'Rail Sims (@DeRailSims) and ILB Coach Byron Thweatt (@Thweattster32)!

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