CI Week 9 Highlights

Please find highlights from CI coaches for Week 9 below:

On a wet and dreary day in New Jersey, it was the team who plays its home games indoors that handled the weather conditions best. The difference was especially apparent on special teams. The Jets' field goal unit missed two kicks whereas Falcons kicker Matt Bryant converted all four of his attempts. Another disparity showed up in the return game where Atlanta handled all of New York's kicks cleanly and would've returned a punt for a touchdown if not for a penalty. On the other hand, one of the biggest plays of the game came late in the fourth quarter when the Jets muffed a punt that Atlanta LB Kemal Ishmael recovered at New York's 13-yard line. The Falcons were clinging to a 22-20 lead at the time and Bryant connected on a 29-yard field goal attempt to give the visitors some breathing room. Any remaining hope for the Jets was snuffed out when Matt Bosher drilled a perfect punt inside the Jets' five-yard line with 1:07 left to play. Congratulations to Assistant Special Teams Coordinator Eric Sutulovich who is in his ninth season with the Falcons! Under his guidance, the Atlanta's coverage units have ranked in the top 10 of the league seven times. Before arriving in Atlanta, Sutulovich served as an offensive and special teams assistant with the Detroit Lions in 2008 and also worked with the Texans' special teams units from 2002-05.

On the opening weekend of the season, Howard made history by pulling off the biggest upset in college football history when it beat UNLV as 45 point underdogs. Since then, Head Coach Mike London (@CoachMikeLondon) and his staff have continued to rewrite the record books. Three weeks later, the Bison rallied to beat Bethune-Cookman for the first time in 21 years. This weekend, Howard got another monkey off its back by defeating South Carolina State for the first time in 16 tries. To snap the streak, the Bison used a fast start and some razzle dazzle. On the second play from scrimmage, Howard DE Richard Johnson forced a fumble that DB Bryan Cook recovered at SCSU's 31-yardline. On the very next play, backup QB Jason Collins completed a touchdown pass to WR Jequez Ezzard off of a double reverse. After a touchdown rush by RB Anthony Philyaw extended Howard's lead to 14-0, QB Caylin Newton connected with Ezzard for a 94-yard scoring strike to put the Bison up 21-0 before the game was even 10 minutes old. By the end of the day, Ezzard had compiled 144 receiving yards and Newton set a new single-season program record for Total Offense by a single player. Congratulations to London, Asst. Head Coach/DefCoor/LB Vincent Brown (@CoachVBrown59), OffCoor/QB Brennan Marion (@BrennanMarion4), Co-DefCoor/CB Chip West (@CChipwest), SpecTeams/RB Kenny Lucas (@CoachKennyLucas), and Safeties Coach Cato June (@CatoJune)! Brown and West were both on London's staff at Virginia in 2011 when the Cavaliers reached the Chick-fil-A Bowl and London was named ACC Coach of the Year. Marion is in his first season working with London after serving as the Passing Game Coordinator at Kentucky Christian in 2016. Lucas joined the Bison this season after serving as Morgan State's assistant head coach and running backs coach while June coached the Bison running backs in 2016.

Texas State's trip to Conway, SC represented a bit of a homecoming for Asst. Head Coach/DefCoor/ILB Randall McCray (@mccray_randall) and DL Coach Isaac Mooring who are both North Carolina natives. The duo looked right at home as they shut out Coastal Carolina's offense to give Texas State its first conference win of the year. The Bobcat defense held the Chanticleers to their lowest offensive output of the season, 183 total yards and zero points. Coastal's only score of the game came late in the first quarter when the Chants returned a botched Texas State field goal attempt for a touchdown to tie the score at 7-7. From that point on, it was all Bobcats. Gabe Loyd filled up the stat sheet for McCray's defense as the senior linebacker finished with 4 tackles, 2.5 tackles-for-loss, 1 sack and 1 forced fumble. DT Jordan Mittie led the way up front for the Bobcats with four tackles. Congratulations to McCray and Mooring on the dominant performance! McCray is in his second season at Texas State following a three-year stint as the defensive coordinator at Gardner-Webb where he led the Runnin' Bulldogs to the best season on defense in program history. He has also served on staffs at Pitt, Wisconsin, Middle Tennessee and Toledo. Mooring is in his first year at Texas State after working with McCray at Gardner-Webb and at North Greenville prior to that.

On its first drive of the game, VMI drove into Citadel territory and made a field goal to take a 3-0 lead with 11 minutes remaining in the first quarter. Three plays into the Bulldogs' ensuing drive, slotback Grant Drakeford rushed 71 yards for a touchdown and the rout was on. The Citadel set a new season-high with 407 rushing yards and pitched a shutout on defense for the game's final 56 minutes to retain the Silver Shako trophy for the 11th consecutive time. VMI managed to gain just 219 yards of total offense marking the fifth time this season that Blake Harrell's (@Coach_B_Harrell) defense has held an opposing offense under 300 yards. The Bulldogs registered 11 tackles-for-loss, including five sacks, and forced the Keydets into three turnovers. Individual standouts for The Citadel on the defensive side included safety Aaron Span III who recorded his conference-leading fifth interception of the season and LB Noah Dawkins who tallied nice tackles and three tackles-for-loss. Congratulations on the win to Harrell who is in his second season as defensive coordinator and fourth overall on the Bulldog staff! Last year, he mentored the SoCon Defensive Player of the Year Kailik Williams and helped guide the team to its second consecutive conference championship and a #6 seed in the FCS playoffs. Prior to arriving in Charleston, Harrell spent seven years at Lenoir-Rhyne where he helped the Bears reach the 2013 Division II National Championship Game. 

If Virginia Union ultimately qualifies for the Division II playoffs, it surely will look back on WR Gustavious Dames' 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Elizabeth State as a defining moment. Dames' return had all the elements of a memorable play: high stakes, an unconventional decision and incredible talent. The upset minded Vikings had just taken a two-point lead in the fourth quarter and were close to dashing the Panthers' quest for a playoff berth and share of the CIAA Northern Division crown. On the ensuing kickoff, Dames let the ball bounce and roll several yards past him into the end zone. While the most reasonable choice for Dames would've been to grab the ball and take a knee, he chose to pick it up and return it. His track speed took care of the rest. Dames' touchdown gave the Panthers a 24-19 lead and they held on to win by a final of 37-21. VUU also scored on defense earlier in the game when LB Karl Calhoun intercepted a pass and returned it 26 yards for a touchdown. As a defense, the Panthers forced three turnovers and held ECSU to just 17 rushing yards on 25 carries. Congratulations to VUU DE Coach Troy Taylor (@CoachTroyTaylor)! Taylor, who also directs the Panthers' recruiting efforts in Virginia, has been on staff since 2014 and spent his first three years coaching quarterbacks. In 2015, he coached QB Shawheem Dowdy to the Willie Lanier Award presented to the best D2/3 player in Virginia. Taylor also has head coaching experience at the high school level in Virginia where he posted the highest winning percentage in the history of Meadowbrook H.S.

Before Fort Valley State could celebrate its second consecutive SIAC East Division title with a week left to spare, two things had to go their way: they had to beat Morehouse and Benedict had to beat Albany State. The Wildcats received the help they were looking for when Benedict closed out a 17-12 win. As far as their own game, it was never close. Fort Valley State racked up 377 yards of offense and cruised to a 52-7 win over Morehouse. QB Slade Jarman led the Wildcats' offense by completing 11-of-19 passes for 196 yards and three touchdowns. On the ground, running backs Lorenzo Smothers and Christopher Weems led the way with 39 and 31 rushing yards, respectively. Congratulations on the win and division title to Fort Valley State OL Coach Gary Lowery (@grapeape910)! Lowery is in his first season with the Wildcats after coaching for three years at Hampton where he worked with the Pirates' defensive line and running backs. His career also includes stops at Fayetteville State and Winston-Salem State.

Quick Hits
  • Three more CI coaches earned bowl eligibility with wins this weekend. Congratulations to Mississippi State DL Coach Brian Baker (@MSUCoachBaker), Arizona LB Coach Scott Boone (@CoachScottBoone), and Stanford Defensive Assistant Toure Carter (@ToureCarter)!
  • FIU improved to 5-2 which marks the best start in program history after beating Marshall 41-30. Congratulations to Special Teams Coordinator James Vollono (@CoachVollono)!

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