Southern Utah receives at-large bid to FCS playoffs
Cedar City • Southern Utah coach Ed Lamb didn't watch the FCS playoff selection show Sunday morning.
Instead, he had eaten breakfast with his family and was washing the dishes.
"My hands were wet," Lamb said. "But my phone started buzzing so often that I knew something was going on either a major emergency or we made the playoffs."
There was no emergency.
Instead, Lamb's colleagues, players and friends were calling to congratulate him on Southern Utah's unexpected at-large bid to the playoffs.
The Thunderbirds, 8-4 overall after Saturday's 20-10 loss to 10th-ranked Northern Arizona, will play Sam Houston State on Saturday afternoon in Huntsville, Texas.
It will be SUU's first appearance in the postseason and it comes six years after Lamb took over a program that had lost 18 straight games.
His reaction to the bid?
"Surprised, joy probably the same as our players," Lamb said. "... I'm just so proud of the way they fought all season long."
Sam Houston State has lost to North Dakota State in the last two FCS championship games.
Like Southern Utah, the Bearkats' chances of making the playoffs hinged on securing an at-large berth, since they finished third in the Southland Conference.
Sam Houston State's situation was complicated by a 49-31 loss at Central Arkansas on Saturday, which dropped their record to 8-4.
"In situations like this, you want to take the future and put it in your hands," senior quarterback Brian Bell told the Huntsville Item newspaper after the game.
"We wanted to come in here and win and have a for-sure playoff shot. It's now up to other people and it's out of our hands. We've just got to hope for the best."
Lamb calls the Bearkats "one of the most athletic and explosive teams in the country," saying they "will fully expect to advance in the playoffs â again."
Along with Southern Utah, three other Big Sky Conference teams reached the playoffs.
Eastern Washington (10-2, 8-0) received an automatic bid as the league champion and is seeded third nationally. Montana (10-2, 6-2) is the No. 8 seed. Both received first-round byes.
Northern Arizona (9-2, 7-1) finished second in the Big Sky ahead of Montana but is not seeded. The Lumberjacks, who rallied from a 10-0 deficit to beat Southern Utah in the regular-season finale, will open the playoffs with a first-round game at South Dakota State.
The loss to NAU seemingly ended their playoff hopes.
After the game, Lamb said, "We are extremely proud of what the guys accomplished. â¦ It's been a great season. Our seniors have left a legacy of expectations that we will play big games in November."
As it turned out, Southern Utah has at least one more this year.
NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoff Glance
All Times EST
Saturday, Nov. 30
Lafayette (5-6) at New Hampshire (7-4), Noon
Furman (7-5) at South Carolina State (9-3), 1 p.m.
Bethune-Cookman (10-2) at Coastal Carolina (10-2), 1 p.m.
Sacred Heart (10-2) at Fordham (11-1), 1 p.m.
Tennessee State (9-3) at Butler (9-3), 1 p.m.
Southern Utah (8-4) at Sam Houston State (8-4), 3 p.m.
South Dakota State (8-4) at Northern Arizona (9-2), 8 p.m.
Samford (8-4) at Jacksonville State (9-3), 8 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 7
Sacred Heart-Fordham winner at Towson (10-2), 1 p.m.
Bethune-Cookman-Coastal Carolina winner at Montana (10-2), 2 p.m.
Lafayette-New Hampshire winner at Maine (10-2), 2 p.m.
Tennessee State-Butler winner at Eastern Illinois (11-1), 2 p.m.
Furman-South Carolina State winner at North Dakota State (11-0), 3:30 p.m.
South Dakota State-Northern Arizona winner at Eastern Washington (10-2), 4 p.m.
Samford-Jacksonville State at McNeese State (10-2), 7 p.m.
Southern Utah-Sam Houston State winner at Southeastern Louisiana (10-2), 8 p.m.
Friday, Dec. 13 or Saturday, Dec. 14
Bethune-Cookman-Coastal Carolina-Montana winner vs. Furman-South Carolina State-North Dakota State winner, TBA
Lafayette-New Hampshire-Maine winner vs. Southern Utah-Sam Houston State-Sutheastern Louisiana winner, TBA
Samford-Jacksonville State-McNeese State winner vs. South Dakota State-Northern Arizona-Eastern Washington winner, TBA
Sacred Heart-Fordham-Towson winner vs. Tennessee State-Butler-Eastern Illinois winner, TBA
Friday, Dec. 20 or Saturday, Dec. 21
Saturday, Jan. 4
At FC Dallas Stadium
TBD, 2 p.m.
The Associated Press