CI Week 9 Football Highlights


One consequence of multiple Power 5 conferences delaying their start to the season has been increased exposure for Group of 5 programs and FBS independents. Last week, we highlighted Army, as the Black Knights have started 6-1 and became the first program to accept a bowl game invitation. Another program that has thrived in the limelight is Coastal Carolina. On Saturday, the Chanticleers throttled Georgia State, 51-0, and improved to 6-0 on the season. With a win over Big 12 member Kansas already under its belt, CCU currently sits at #15 in the AP Poll after entering season without ever being ranked. No other Sun Belt team has advanced as high in the history of the AP Poll as the Chants currently find themselves. Congratulations to Coastal Co-Offensive Coordinator/RB Newland Isaac (@coachisaacFB) on the Georgia State win and historic start! Keep reading for more highlights from Week 9.

Taulia Tagovailoa rallies Maryland past Minnesota in overtime
As the younger brother of former All-American QB Tua Tagovailoa, Taulia is the natural headliner for the Terrapin offense. Against Minnesota, Tagovailoa lived up to the hype, accounting for five total touchdowns, 394 passing yards and 64 rushing yards. But if there is an unsung hero for Maryland’s offense, it most certainly is RB Jake Funk. Unlike the bright lights the have accompanied the Terp signal caller, Funk is in his fifth year with the program after having his previous two seasons cut short due to torn ACLs. Finally healthy, Funk has come into his own this season under the guidance of Maryland RB Coach Elijah Brooks (@UMDCoachBrooks). His 216 rushing yards on Friday night marked more than he had gained in any of his first four seasons at College Park. His receiving touchdown gave Maryland an early 7-0 lead and his 19-yard rushing touchdown at the end of regulation sent the game to overtime tied at 38-38. In the extra session, Funk carried once before Tagovailoa put the Terps ahead with a two-yard touchdown run. The Gophers appeared poised to send the game to double overtime on their possession, but a missed extra point handed Maryland a win in its home opener. Congratulations to Brooks and Special Teams Consultant James Vollono (@CoachVollono) on the big win! Brooks is in his second season with the Terps and last year coached RB Anthony McFarland, Jr., who was selected in the fourth round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Brooks previously served as the head coach at perennial national power DeMatha Catholic High School in Maryland. At DeMatha, Brooks won four consecutive conference championships and compiled an overall record of 72-20.

Joseph Ossai keys gritty 41-34 OT Texas upset of No. 6 Oklahoma State
Even in a season an unconventional as this one, the pressure to win is always sky-high for a program like Texas. And while the Longhorns have played well over the first month, a two-point loss versus TCU and an overtime loss in the Red River Rivalry had only increased the pressure on the Texas coaching staff heading into Saturday. With their backs against the wall, the Longhorns responded by earning their first road win over a top 10 team since 2010. Texas LB Joseph Ossai keyed the victory against Oklahoma State, registering 12 tackles, six tackles-for-loss, three sacks and a forced fumble. His biggest play came in overtime when he sacked OSU QB Spencer Sanders on fourth down to seal the upset. For his efforts, Ossai was named the Walter Camp Defensive Player of the Week. While Ossai stole the show, the Texas defense as a whole produced one of its best efforts of the season, forcing five turnovers against the previously unbeaten Cowboys. Congratulations to Texas Defensive grad assistant Elijah Sandweiss (@ElijahSandweiss) on the big win! Sandweiss is in his first season on the Forty Acres after serving as the defensive coordinator and inside linebackers coach at Howard in 2019. No stranger to the spotlight of marquee programs, he served in a variety of roles at Michigan, beginning as a student equipment manager in 2012 and working his way up to Defensive Analyst in 2016. Sandweiss also completed an internship with the Detroit Lions in 2013.

Zepeda boots Wildcats to 20-17 Halloween win over Mercer
Unlike some FCS programs that cobbled together an abbreviated fall schedule with a handful of games, Abilene Christian has gone all-out with an eight-game schedule. While their October 17 contest versus West Texas was canceled, the Wildcats have gotten three games in, including a trip out to El Paso when they came up just four points shy of upsetting FBS member UTEP. On Saturday, they traveled 1,000 miles in the other direction, heading to Macon, GA to take on Mercer. Thanks to a game-winning field goal by Blair Zepeda as time expired, the long trek back to Abilene was much more enjoyable. Before Zepeda’s kick, Abilene Christian QB Peyton Mansell led the Wildcats by completing 23-of-35 passes for 236 yards and one touchdown. His touchdown pass came with less than six minutes left in the game, when he connected with WR Kobe Clark on a 10-yard strike to tie the score at 17-17. After the Wildcat defense forced a three-and-out, ACU Offensive Coordinator/QB Josh Lamberson (@JoshLamberson) engineered a 12-play, 43-yard drive to setup the game-winner.  Congratulations to Lamberson on the comeback win! Lamberson is in his fourth season in Abilene, where he has helped the Wildcats set a new school record for most wins as an FCS program in a three-year span. He previously served as the head coach at Nebraska-Kearney for two seasons and also served as the offensive coordinator at Central Missouri. With the Mules, he coached QB Eric Czerniewski to the 2010 Harlon Hill Award as the top player in NCAA Division II football.

UNK beats Pittsburgh State for first time since 1983
When Lamberson stepped down at Nebraska-Kearney in 2017, he was succeeded by current head coach Josh Lynn (@CoachJoshLynn). In his first three seasons at Kearney, Lynn has steadily built the Lopers into a winner. After winning three games in 2017, UNK won five in 2018 before adding another two wins to the tally in 2019 with seven. While Lynn won’t have an opportunity to win that many games this fall due to a shortened schedule, Saturday’s season opener showed it isn’t too short to make history. For the first time in 37 years, the Lopers knocked off Division II blue blood Pitt State, 31-26. The matchup will go down as a non-conference contest, but there was no denying the statement made between the two MIAA rivals. Loper QB TJ Davis, the reigning MIAA Freshman of the Year, picked up right where he left off in 2019, throwing for 154 and rushing for four scores and 91 yards on 21 carries. The Lopers also received key contributions from their special teams and defense. UNK DE Blake Schroeder blocked a field goal and the Lopers also blew up a Gorilla attempted punt and secured an onside kick near the end of the game. Defensively, UNK broke up eight passes and stopped the Gorillas twice on fourth down, including a 4th-and-10 in the red zone with under a minute to play. Congratulations to Lynn on the historic win! A specialist at rebuilding projects, Lynn spent five seasons as the head coach at his alma mater, Eastern New Mexico, from 2012-16. The Greyhounds went 3-7 in 2012, but turned things around the following season, winning the 2013 Lone Star Conference Championship with an 8-3 record while Lynn was named a finalist for national coach of the year. In 2011, he engineered a similar turnaround in one season as the head coach at New Mexico Military Institute, as the team improved upon a 3-8 record in 2010 to go 9-2 and finish the season ranked sixth in the nation.

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