Round one of the 2021 FCS playoffs is over, and the Dukes host Southeastern Louisiana in round two. How did SLU fare against FAMU? And what else happened around the tournament?
Takeaway 1: Cole Kelley is as good as they say
Spring FCS Walter Payton Award winner and SE Louisiana senior quarterback Cole Kelley had an impressive performance against FAMU in round one, throwing for 354 yards, one touchdown and interception. Kelley can command the Lions’ offense and knows how to move inside the pocket.
The quarterback utilized not only his speed to navigate around the FAMU defense but also looked for one-on-one opportunities deep. Kelley’s agility helped give his options time on long-developing routes or to cut around FAMU’s defense — scoring two highlight-reel-quality touchdowns as a reward.
Prior to Saturday’s game, JMU head coach Curt Cignetti and redshirt senior quarterback Cole Johnson both mentioned Kelley following the selection show. Both spoke of his skill level despite not knowing much else about both FAMU and SLU. The Lions scored in each quarter of the game, with 17 points in the third — the nail in the Rattlers’ coffin.
Takeaway 2: Beware of trick plays
A surprise to JMU fans was the number of trick plays SLU deployed against FAMU. The Lions weren’t afraid to show off offensive coordinator Greg Stevens’ creativity in his playbook — which worked against the Rattlers — but gave the Dukes a lot more information.
The number of trick plays could become a blessing or a curse for JMU. For one, it means the Dukes are better equipped to defend SLU’s trick plays. On the other hand, if the Lions showed that many trick plays this early in the playoffs, there’s a chance SLU has more up its sleeve for Saturday’s game.
Takeaway 3: Secondaries will make or break the game
Both JMU and SLU have potent offenses, their wide receivers can win one-on-ones and both quarterbacks have strong resumes this season. The pressure is on both teams’ secondaries.
The Dukes struggled with penalties all season, and while they’ve improved the last two games, it’s still exploitable.
The same can be said for SLU.
The Lions’ defense has weaknesses JMU can take advantage of, including SLU’s lack of consistent zone coverage. The bottom line is that while Johnson and Kelley will be the stars to watch, the secondaries are the deciding factors for this second-round matchup.
FCS first-round updates
On the left side of the bracket, Incarnate Word beat Stephen F. Austin State 35-28 and now faces defending national champion Sam Houston. UT Martin topped Missouri State in a nail-biting 32-31 victory and takes on No. 8 Montana State.
Holy Cross defeated Sacred Heart 13-10 and visits No. 5 Villanova in the second round. Rounding out the left side, South Dakota State trampled UC Davis 56-24 and makes the trip to No. 4 Sacramento State this weekend.
On the ride side, Southern Illinois defeated South Dakota 22-10 to face No. 2 North Dakota State. Kennesaw State took down Davidson 48-21 and take on No. 7 Eastern Tennessee State. Finally, Eastern Washington downed Northern Iowa 19-9 before battling on No. 6 Montana.
Contact Madison Hricik at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more football coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.