CI Week 8 Highlights

If the theme of Week 7 was heavyweights asserting their dominance, the theme of Week 8 was the underdog. Several CI coaches got back to winning ways with upsets over heavily favored opponents on Saturday. In the push for the postseason at the FBS level, four more CI coaches secured bowl eligibility with wins in Week 8. Congratulations to Oregon State DB Coach Blue Adams (@CoachAdamsOSU), Troy Defensive Assistant David Mackie (@Coach_DMACK), Cincinnati RB Coach Darren Paige (@RBCoachPaige), and Oregon State RB Coach A.J. Steward (@Coach_Steward). Keep reading for more highlights from Week 8.
After missing five games with an injured thumb, a little rust was expected for Dallas QB Dak Prescott. Not surprisingly, the Cowboys and Lions slogged their way to a nine-point first half with Detroit holding a 6-3 lead. In the second half, the Dallas defense forced five turnovers and the offense came to life, feeding off the momentum. The first turnover came on Detroit's first possession of the third quarter when CB Trevon Diggs picked off a Jared Goff pass at the Dallas 18-yard line. Running backs Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard carried the ball five times on the ensuing drive, culminating in Elliott finding pay dirt on a one-yard score to cap a seven-play, 82-yard drive to give the Cowboys a 10-6 lead. Early in the fourth quarter, another Goff interception led to another Elliott one-yard score to increase the hosts' lead to 17-6. After a third Goff turnover, this time a lost fumble, Prescott got in on the scoring when he found TE Peyton Hendershot for a two-yard touchdown pass to produce the 24-6 final score. For the game, Prescott was highly efficient in completing 19-of-25 passes for 207 yards. On the ground, Pollard and Elliott combined to account for 140 rushing yards. Despite missing the services of Prescott for an extended stretch, the Cowboys currently sit at 5-2 and are in the thick of the NFC East race. Congratulations on the win to Dallas Offensive Quality Control Coach Chase Haslett (@Coach_Haslett)! Haslett is in his third season in Big D and last year contributed to an offense that led the NFL in both scoring (31.2) and yards per game (407). Working closely with the tight end position, he helped TE Dalton Schultz post the best season of his career with 78 receptions, 808 yards and 8 touchdowns. After playing collegiately at IUP, Haslett began his coaching career at the collegiate level as a graduate assistant working with quarterbacks at Nebraska. He went on to work with the running backs at Mississippi State and served as the tight ends coach at Mercer in 2019.
If you scanned social media on Saturday night, you’d find more than a few posts suggesting Georgia Southern Head Coach Clay Helton as a candidate for coach of the year. A team that was projected by Vegas to win four games all season, the Eagles have already eclipsed that mark with a month still to play, winning their fifth game with a 28-23 decision over Old Dominion. The credit for GSU’s resurgence extends beyond just Helton to include RB Coach Matt Merritt (@Coach_Merritt) and the rest of a staff that has significantly improved upon last year’s 3-9 record all while completely overhauling the previous offensive system. Against the Monarchs, RB Jalen White was the workhorse. Checking in at 6'0" 215 lbs, White battered and bruised the ODU defense to the tune of 138 rushing yards and one touchdown on a career-high 30 carries. Complementing White's thunder, RB Gerald Green provided the lightning. Showcasing his 4.43 speed in the 40, the redshirt junior raced his way to 91 yards and two touchdowns on just 12 carries (7.6 ypc). Green's first score came with 9:46 left in the third quarter when he burst through a hole up the middle and went untouched for 30 yards to extend the Eagles' lead to 21-10. The Monarchs tacked on a pair of field goals to pull within five, but once again Green slammed the door on any comeback bid, finding the end zone for the second time on a three-yard rush with 10:00 left in the game. When all was said and done, Georgia Southern rushers had churned out 223 rushing yards on 50 carries. Congratulations to Merritt on the win and dominating rushing attack! Merritt is in his first season in Statesboro after serving as a senior offensive analyst at Tennessee in 2021. Being part of substantial improvements is nothing new for Merritt as he helped the Volunteers improve upon their 2020 campaign by four wins and 90 rushing yards per game en route to a berth in the Music City Bowl. He previously coached the running backs at James Madison, including Percy Agyei-Obese who earned All-American honors in 2019 as the Dukes reached the FCS national championship game. Merritt was part of the Ohio State staff that won the 2015 national championship and has also coached at Elon and Ohio Dominican.      
Things did not start off well for the Tulsa offense on Friday night. On the Golden Hurricane’s first possession, QB Davis Brin threw a pick-six to spot the Owls a 7-0 lead. Two plays later, Brin threw another interception to setup Temple deep in Tulsa territory. Fortunately for CB Coach Gary McGraw (@DBCoachMcGraw) and the rest of the Tulsa defense, DB Bryson Powers stepped up with two tackles and one pass breakup to keep the Owls out of the end zone and force a field goal that kept the game within reach. Slowly but surely, the Golden Hurricane offense found its footing. While the defense continued to stand tall, Brin bounced back to throw two touchdowns in the second quarter to give the visitors a 14-10 lead at the break. The Golden Hurricane defense continued its domination in the second half, keeping the Owls out of the end zone until 6:08 remained in the fourth quarter. Temple got the ball once more with a chance to mount a game-tying drive, but the Tulsa secondary forced four straight incompletions to effectively seal the win. Along with Powers, CB Tyree Carlisle had a huge game on the backend for the Golden Hurricane, registering eight tackles, including 1.5 tackles-for-loss. McGraw also received a strong effort from the kickoff coverage unit he directs as Tulsa allowed just 34 return yards on four kickoffs. The Golden Hurricane currently ranks fifth in the nation in kickoff coverage, yielding an average of 13.82 yards per return. Congratulations to McGraw on the win and contributions from the secondary and special teams! McGraw is in his first season in Tulsa after a six-year stint as the special teams coordinator and cornerbacks coach at Sam Houston State. With the Bearkats, he won the FCS National Championship in the 2021 spring season, claimed three conference titles and reached the playoffs a total of four times. Defensively, SHSU finished in the top 10 nationally in interceptions in both 2017 and 2020, bolstered by four-time All-American selection DB Zyon McCollum. A developer of talent and skilled recruiter, McGraw helped Sam Houston secure the top ranked defensive secondary recruiting class in FCS in 2017. Before arriving in Huntsville, he spent five seasons as the defensive backs coach at Midwestern State where he helped guide the Mustangs to two conference championships and two playoff appearances.
The New Hampshire Wildcats are the Rodney Dangerfield of the CAA. They get no respect. Entering the weekend, there were five CAA teams ranked in the top 25 and a sixth at #28 in the FCS Coaches Poll. None of those teams were the Wildcats. Meanwhile, there was only one CAA team that woke up on Saturday morning still undefeated in conference games - New Hampshire. By Saturday night, the Wildcats had knocked off one of those ranked teams and figure to finally get some well-earned respect. Against an Elon defense that had not given up more than 31 points all season against an FCS opponent, UNH Offensive Coordinator/OL Brian Scott (@CoachBroScott) gave people reason to take notice, putting up 40 points and 460 yards in a 40-22 win. The Wildcats got off to a fast start as QB Max Brosmer scored on a 42-yard touchdown run and threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to put UNH up 14-0 early. From there, the Wildcats were off to the races. As Elon Head Coach Tony Trisciani said after the game, "UNH smelled blood in the water and attacked, and finished us like a good team does." Brosmer went on to add another passing touchdown in the third quarter and RB Dylan Laube provided the finishing touch with a 77-yard rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter to put the hosts up 40-15. Laube finished the day with 200 all-purpose yards. Congratulations to Scott on the statement win! Scott is in his second season in Durham after serving as the run game coordinator and offensive line coach at Towson in 2020. From 2007-19, he was one of the principal architects in charge of restarting the Old Dominion program and guiding the Monarchs through their transition from FCS to FBS. In 11 seasons as ODU's offensive coordinator, Scott won 77 games, a CAA championship, made two FCS playoff appearances and won the 2016 Bahamas Bowl. He previously coached the offensive line, running backs and tight ends at Maine and also has experience at Tennessee-Martin and UMass-Lowell.
Elsewhere in the CAA, Richmond beat Hampton, 41-10, to improve to 3-1 in conference games and keep the pressure on New Hampshire. The Spiders set a new season-high for regulation with 498 yards of offense and scored their most points in a road contest since 2015. While Richmond's offense has been flying high all season, the running game has not always featured prominently given the strengths of Walter Payton Award Watch List QB Reece Udinski. Against the Pirates, Richmond RB Coach Justin Poindexter's (@FBCoachDex) mentees got their chance to shine and they did not disappoint. Starting RB Aaron Dykes did the heavy lifting early, racking up 49 yards on just eight carries (6.1 ypc) as the Spiders jumped out to a 24-10 advantage at the half. In the second half, Dykes passed the baton to Dontae Black and Milan Howard, who combined to log 48 rushing yards as the hosts extended their lead to 34-10 in the fourth quarter. With the game in hand, Poindexter turned to newcomer Fonnae Webb. A redshirt sophomore, Webb entered the Richmond record books on the very first carry of his collegiate career. Webb found a hole up the middle and broke to his left, racing 87 yards for a score to mark the fifth longest run in program history. As a unit, Spider rushers combined for 184 yards and over six yards per carry as the team won its fifth game of the year. At 5-2, Richmond is enjoying its best seven-game start since the 2016 season when they reached the FCS Quarterfinals. Congratulations to Poindexter on the win and Webb's historic debut! Poindexter arrived in Richmond this year after spending the 2021 season on the defensive side of the ball as an analyst at LSU. Poindexter joined the Tigers after serving as the running backs coach for the Tampa Bay Vipers of the XFL in 2020. He worked with the offensive line for the Toronto Argonauts from 2017-19 and boasts scouting experience from a stint with the Cleveland Browns. From 2013-15, he gained experience in the passing game as the tight ends coach at Southern. While at Southern, he completed a Bill Walsh Minority Coaching Fellowship with the San Francisco 49ers in 2015.
Week in and week out, the Big Red are making history. Last week, Cornell knocked off Lehigh, 19-15, to clinch its first undefeated non-conference slate since 2007. On Saturday, the Big Red won its third consecutive road contest, the program's longest such streak since 1990, and secured its first winning record in road games since 1990. At 4-2, Cornell has also matched as many wins as it has had in a single season since winning five games in 2011. As it has been all season, the key to beating Brown was a lockdown defense. The Big Red twice kept the Bears off the board after Brown had advanced inside the Cornell 5-yard line and limited the hosts to a paltry 2.9 yards per rush. The first big play from the Big Red defense came on Brown's first possession. With Cornell already up 7-0, the Bears opted to go for it on 4th-and-2 from the Cornell 39-yard line but came up empty when DL Mason Yacovelli batted down the intended pass. The defense was thrown back into a high leverage situation just moments later when the Bears blocked a punt, setting up their offense in Cornell territory. Once again, the Big Red stood tall as LB Connor Henderson generated pressure on Brown QB Jake Wilcox, forcing an incompletion on third down to bring on the punt unit. The second half brought more of the same. Brown reached the Cornell three-yard line on its first possession of the third quarter but went away empty handed when DL Brendan Chestnut stuffed Wilcox for no gain on fourth down. Denied but not yet defeated, Brown hung around and pulled to within three at 24-21 midway through the fourth quarter. On their final drive, the Bears appeared to take their first lead of the game but a replay review determined that the Brown ball carrier had stepped out-of-bounds at the one-yard line with 42 seconds to play. On 1st-and-goal, CB Paul Lewis III stuffed a Brown rush and on second down DL Max Lundeen made the play of the game, sacking Wilcox and forcing a fumble that Chestnut pounced on to wrap up the victory. Congratulations to Cornell LB Coach Jeff Comissiong (@jeffcomissiong) on the win and goal line stands! A veteran with 25 years of college coaching experience, Comissiong is in his second season in Ithaca after prior stints at Boston College, Old Dominion, Hampton, Harvard, Maine and Bates. As the defensive line coach at Boston College, he mentored three future pros, including two players drafted in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft. His defensive line anchored an Eagle run defense that led the nation in 2010 and finished second in 2007. While at Old Dominion, he worked with eight all-conference selections, including Oshane Ximines who holds the program record for sacks.
With three games remaining in the regular season, Culver-Stockton Head Coach Tom Sallay (@CoachSallayCSC) and the Wildcats have a special opportunity in front of them. Never in the 113-year history of the program have the Wildcats appeared in the postseason. Now in his sixth season at the helm of his alma mater, Sallay has come tantalizingly close to breaking the streak. Last season, C-SC entered its penultimate game versus perennial NAIA powerhouse Grand View with an undefeated record, one of the highest scoring offenses in the nation, and a legitimate chance to dethrone the champs. However, starting QB Jase Orndorff went down early in the game with an injury and the Wildcats couldn't muster enough offense in his absence, falling to the Vikings by three, 9-6. Despite the loss, C-SC finished the year with an 8-3 record which marked the most wins in a season in school history and the program's first-ever top 25 finish. Through two Heart of America Conference games, the Wildcats are 2-0 and another matchup against #2 Grand View looms on November 5. But first things first, C-SC had to take care of business versus Clarke. With Orndorff once again healthy and putting up big numbers, the Wildcats did just that, cruising to a 41-21 win over the Pride. While the final margin ended up being comfortable, Sallay's squad was tested early as Clarke raced out to a 21-10 lead late in the first half. An interception by C-SC DB Jeremiah Fergerson got things back on track, setting the Wildcat offense up inside the red zone. On the very next play, RB Demarion Cobb pulled the Wildcats to within 21-17 after a 16-yard touchdown rush and extra point. In the second half, C-SC's offense was pinned deep on its first possession following a Clarke punt, but Orndorff flipped the field position in the blink of an eye, completing a 65-yard touchdown pass to WR Slayton Ochoa to finish a three-play, 96-yard drive in just 1:24. From there, the Wildcats never looked back as Orndorff threw two more touchdown passes to the delight of the homecoming crowd. Congratulations and good luck down the stretch to Sallay! Following the 2021 season, Sallay was named the Heart of America North Division Coach of the Year and was also named the AFCA-NAIA Region 3 Co-Coach of the Year in 2019. Before returning to C-SC in 2017, he spent 11 seasons at St. Francis, including the final two as defensive coordinator.
For Bluffton Defensive Coordinator Devan Hill, it has been a year filled with adversity. As the de facto interim head coach in charge of directing the program through a head coaching change following the 2021 season, Hill has been tasked with easing the transition for a first-year head coach and new staff. While the Beavers have experienced the growing pains that come with any head coaching change, the players have bought into the new staff's messaging and continued to persevere. Any doubt as to the team's resilience was put to rest with Bluffton's thrilling 46-44 triumph over Manchester in five overtimes. In a back-and-forth affair that saw eight lead changes and seven ties, the Beavers came out on top when they stuffed a Spartan rush short of the goal line in the fifth extra period. Earlier in the game, Hill's defense came up with one of the highlights of the season when a trio of defensive linemen teamed up for a scoop-and-score to knot the score at 17-17. The play began when Marvus McWright sacked Manchester QB Eric James and forced a fumble that Brady Welker recovered. Welker advanced the ball to the Manchester seven-yard line before lateraling the ball to Keith Holmes Jr. who crossed the goal line with just 11 seconds remaining in the half. The fumble recovery by Welker was one of his two for the game to go along with 10 tackles. DB Karl Foster and LB Mason Brandon led the Beaver defense with 11 tackles apiece. Congratulations to Hill on the wild win! Hill is in his fifth year at Bluffton and oversees the defensive backs in addition to his coordinator responsibilities. In his first year with the program, he mentored safety Doniven Clark who earned all-conference honors after finishing the season ranked third in Division II in interceptions. As a unit, Hill's secondary ranked in the top 25 nationally after finishing the 2018 regular season with 15 picks. A specialist at coaching takeaway artists, Hill coached safety Luke Kearns at Catholic University, who finished second nationally in forced fumbles in 2017. Hill previously coordinated the Chowan defense and possesses Division I coaching experience from a stint as the defensive passing game coordinator at Hampton. In 2012, he completed a Bill Walsh Coaching Fellowship with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Another program that has faced tough sledding as of late, Wagner got back in the win column on Friday night thanks to a ball hawking defense. LB Junior Wily and DB Coby Calvin each recorded pick-sixes to lift the Seahawks to a 37-26 win over Long Island. After the teams traded touchdowns to find themselves tied at 7-7 early in the second quarter, Calvin struck with his score, a 60-yard interception return, to put Wagner up 14-7. The Seahawks would not relinquish the lead for the rest of the night. A 29-yard touchdown pass from QB Nick Kargman to WR Naiem Simmons and a one-yard scoring rush by RB Rickey Spruill helped Wagner extend its lead to 30-19 after three quarters of play. Any hopes of a Shark comeback were harpooned when Seahawk LB Tre Vallar hit LIU QB Derek Green, forcing an off-balance throw that Wily hauled in and returned 49 yards for a score to increase the lead to 37-19. LIU drew within 11 but no closer as the Seahawks closed out their first win in three years to setoff a celebration on the sideline and a plea from the school to the Seahawk faithful not to steal the goalposts. Congratulations to Wagner Asst. Head Coach/LB Tony Brinson (@CoachBrins) on the emotional win! Brinson is in the second year of his second stint on Staten Island after spending the 2019 campaign as the defensive coordinator at Morehead State. In his first stint at Wagner from 2011-18, Brinson served in a variety of roles including defensive and special teams coordinator in addition to coaching the linebackers and defensive line. He found success in each capacity, mentoring two team MVPs, five Defensive MVP's, and nine All-NEC players. On a team level, Brinson helped guide the Seahawks to the 2012 and 2014 NEC championships. Before arriving at Wagner, he served as the tight ends coach at Columbia and has also coached at a pair of Rhode Island programs, URI and Bryant.
Quick Hits
  • South Carolina DB Darius Rush returned an interception 59 yards as the Gamecocks held off Texas A&M, 30-24. Congratulations to DB Coach Torrian Gray (@togray14)!
  • Howard RB Jarett Hunter racked up 100 rushing yards and one touchdown and DB Kenny Gallop, Jr. posted a team-high nine tackles as the Bison opened MEAC play with a 35-17 win over Delaware State on homecoming. Congratulations to Head Coach Larry Scott (@CoachLScott70), Offensive Coordinator Lee Hull (@FBCoachHull42) and DB Coach Kyshoen Jarrett (@Ky3fOUR)!
  • In a battle of the first-place teams from the MAC East and West, Buffalo scored 24 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to come back and stun Toledo, 34-27. Congratulations to Bulls TE Coach Ron Whitcomb (@ronwhitcomb)!
  • Florida International's defense forced five turnovers and RB Lexington Joseph scored two touchdowns as the Panthers defeated Charlotte, 34-15. Congratulations to FIU Defensive Coordinator Jovan Dewitt (@Coach_Dewitt) and Assoc. Head Coach/RB Eric Hickson (@CoachEHickson2)!
  • Rhode Island kept pace in the tightly contested CAA race with a wild 48-46 win over Monmouth in seven overtimes. Congratulations to Rams Defensive Coordinator/DB Jack Cooper (@CoachJCooper)!
  • South Dakota DL Brendan Webb came up with a clutch sack on fourth down to seal the Coyotes' 27-24 upset win over #14 Southern Illinois. Congratulations to USD Assoc. Head Coach/Defensive Coor. Travis Johansen (@CoachTJohansen)!
  • Adams State scored 21 points in the third quarter to defeat Colorado Mesa, 45-31, for the program's first win over the Mavericks since 2013. Congratulations to Grizzlies Head Coach Jarrell Harrison (@CoachJHarrison_) and Asst. Head Coach/Defensive Coor./DL Kai Ellis (@Coach_KaiEllis)!
  • East Carolina picked up its fifth win and handed UCF its first loss in conference play with a 34-13 decision in favor of the Pirates. Congratulations to Director of Player Development Bryan Butterworth (@CoachButterECU)!
  • Eastern Michigan kicker Jesus Gomez nailed two field goals, including a 55-yarder as the Eagles rallied to beat Ball State, 20-16. Congratulations to Special Teams Quality Control Ryan Stokes (@CoachStokes_EMU)!
  • Illinois Wesleyan's defense recorded three interceptions, including a pick-six as the Titans routed Carthage in shutout fashion, 55-0. Congratulations to Defensive Coordinator/LB Matt Williamson (@CoachMW_51)!

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