FCS Playoff First Round
Davidson (4-2, 4-1 Pioneer) atNo. 4 seed Jacksonville State (9-2, 6-1 Ohio Valley)
Site: JSU Stadium in Jacksonville, Alabama
Kickoff – 2 p.m. ET Saturday
TV Coverage – ESPN3
Series – First meeting
Coaches – Davidson: Scott Abell (18-11, third season; 57-35 overall); Jacksonville State: John Grass (70-21, seventh season)
3 Players to Watch – Davidson: Tyler Phelps (44 of 76, 627 yards, 6 TDs, 3 INTs; 323 rush yards, 1 TD), RB Coy Williams (86 carries, 459 yards, 6 TDs), CB Jaylon Bolden (35 tackles, 1 INT, 7 pass break-ups); Jacksonville State: QB Zion Webb (110 of 188, 1,524 yards, 11 TDs, 7 INTs; 316 rush yards, 4 TDs), RB Josh Samuel (131 carries, 707 yards, 7 TDs), SS Nicario Harper (79 tackles, 3 INTs, 3 pass breakups, 1 fumble recovery)
The Skinny – Davidson is making its first postseason appearance since the 1969 Tangerine Bowl, having turned around a program that beat only one Division I opponent in the five seasons (2013-17) prior to Abell’s hiring. Five of this season’s six games have been decided by six points or less (3-2 record). The Wildcats will attack a tough Jacksonville State run defense with a spread option that averages an FCS-best 293.8 rushing yards per game (Dylan Sparks has a team-high 519 yards). In the Abell era (29 games), they have 65 touchdown runs of 30 yards or more. They’re excellent with converting third downs (56 percent) and have as many fourth-down attempts (19) as punts and field goal attempts combined. Jacksonville State has the most wins among FCS teams spanning fall and spring schedules. It has kept nine straight opponents to 80 or fewer rushing yards, including four under 30. The offense spreads the carries between Samuel and Uriah West (603 yards, 5 TDs), with both targeted regularly by Webb out of the backfield. Trae Barry has the most receiving yards (1,536) among tight ends in JSU history. Defensive end D.J. Coleman lives in opposing backfields with 21.5 tackles for loss, 13 sacks and 41 QB hurries in the last two seasons. The Gamecocks are prone to committing penalties, averaging nearly eight per game.
Up Next – The winner will play either Sacred Heart or Delaware in the second round on May 1 or 2.
Prediction – Jacksonville State 34, Davidson 16