A spring season mere months before a fall season had plenty of detractors; pundits who fretted what that physical toll might be on Football Championship Subdivision teams who competed in spring and launched their second 2021 seasons just a couple weeks ago.
Yet, here we are, two weeks into the college season and FCS teams have dispatched their Football Bowls Subdivision hosts in virtually unprecedented regularity.
The latest arrived late Saturday night, when Jacksonville State stunned host Florida State, 20-17, on a walk-off touchdown pass.
It wasn't a Hail Mary. It wasn't any type of gadget play.
Gamecocks wideout Damond Philyaw-Johnson, flanked wide right, ran a vertical and never broke stride as he gathered in Zerrick Cooper's pass, eluded a pair of Seminoles defenders and coasted into the end zone.
Just like that, the FCS had notched its seventh win in less than 10 days against college football's top division.
Four of those victories came from FCS teams that competed in the spring playoffs: Eastern Washington defeated UNLV; South Dakota State walloped host Colorado State; Holy Cross ended the Randy Edsall era at UConn; and Jacksonville State, with an ACC-transfer at quarterback in the former Clemson backup Cooper and an ACC-transfer wideout in Philyaw-Johnson, the former Duke standout, handed FSU its first-ever loss to an FCS program.
A couple of coaches that spoke to FootballScoop about the 'Rise of the FCS' pointed out one key element: expanded rosters due to the COVID-19 pandemic, because of which the NCAA ruled that players could maintain an extra year of eligibility and that schools also could expand their rosters to accommodate those players.
As it pertains to Jacksonville State, it's a considerably mature team. Consider: the Gamecocks have 19 players on their roster listed either as redshirt-juniors or redshirt-seniors. So each if those 19 players in his fourth or fifth year in a college program, something fairly uncommon at the FCS level.
At some FBS places, such as Pittsburgh, which is among the most veteran teams in the country and off to a 2-0 start after winning Saturday at Tennessee, it's because the Panthers have the most “super-seniors” in the nation on their roster, according to the school.
They looked the part with their poise in coming back from a double-digit deficit to knock off the Vols. They've also gotten strong secondary play, with defensive-minded head coach Pat Narduzzi and the cornerbacks/safeties coaching combo of Archie Collins and Cory Sanders making it difficult to throw.
Pitt iced that game at Tennessee with a key late pick in which safety Brandon Hill baited Vols quarterback Hendon Hooker into an ill-advised throw down the seam.
In an ACC year in which Clemson seems perhaps a touch more mortal and North Carolina already stubbed its toe against Virginia Tech, the Panthers could be a surprise team.
They're a veteran group, hosting Western Michigan this week and FCS New Hampshire the following week. They open ACC play at struggling Georgia Tech before a bit of a rivalry tilt Oct. 16 at Virginia Tech. It's not a stretch to think the Panthers will be 5-0 and ranked nationally when they head to Blacksburg, Virginia.
SEC FINES STAMPEDING HOGS
The Southeastern Conference announced a $100,000 fine against the University of Arkansas, after the school's fans stormed the field at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium Saturday night in the aftermath of the Hogs' 40-21 trampling of Texas.
Arkansas rushed for 333 yards, averaging more than 7 yards per carry in the process, and then the fans rushed for countless more chunks of real estate in a delirious celebration scene.
Because Hogs fans also had charged the field SEVEN years ago after a win against LSU, the school has been fined the six-figure sum. The SEC fines schools in increments of $50,000, $100,000 and up to $250,000 for a third violation or more.
The league notes it deposits all fines into the conference's post-graduate scholarship fund.