The East Tennessee State Buccaneers await the winner of Saturday’s clash between Kennesaw State and Davidson in the 2021-22 FCS Playoffs. Kennesaw State has the better postseason pedigree, despite being in existence as a football program for just six years. This is already the fourth time the Owls will participate in the playoffs.
Things are different for Davidson, even though the Wildcats are here on merit, having topped the Pioneer League with a 7-1 mark, 8-2 overall. Players like running back Dylan Sparks and pass-rusher Jonathan Hammond helped Davidson stay strong at home, but a 3-2 record on the road is a concern ahead of the trip to Fifth Third Bank Stadium in Georgia.
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The game (2 p.m. ET start time) isn’t on TV anywhere, but anyone in the US can watch Davidson vs Kennesaw State and every other FCS playoff first-round game live on ESPN+:
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Once signed up for ESPN+, you can watch Davidson vs Kennesaw State live on the ESPN app on your Roku, Roku TV, Amazon Fire TV or Firestick, Apple TV, Chromecast, PlayStation 4 or 5, Xbox One or Series X/S, any device with Android TV (such as a Sony TV or Nvidia Shield), Samsung Smart TV, Oculus Go, iPhone, Android phone, iPad or Android tablet.
You can also watch on your computer via ESPN.com.
Davidson vs Kennesaw State Football 2021 Preview
The Owls are playing postseason football on the strength of dual-threat quarterback Xavier Shepherd. He threw 14 touchdown passes and rushed for another 19 scores. Shepherd doesn’t lead a particularly expansive aerial attack, but he is the key to a varied and explosive running game that also features Kyle Glover.
There’s ample support for Glover among a deep committee of talented backs also featuring Iaan Cousin and Adeolu Adeleke. They key an option-style offense that keeps defenses guessing and helped the Owls average the second-most rushing yards per game in the FCS this season.
The distinction of being the best running attack in the FCS belongs to the Wildcats. Their strength on the ground is thanks to Sparks, who has gained 4.9 yards per carry and found the end zone eight times. Just like with the Kennesaw State offense, Sparks is no one-man band. Instead, he’s merely one part of a multi-faceted rotation that gashed defenses for 348.4 rushing yards per game in 2021.
Coy Williams added 702 yards to the mix, while versatile wide receiver Aris Hilliard chipped in with 605 of his own. Hilliard is constantly shifted around the formation and allowed to add an extra dimension to Davidson’s triple-option schemes:
The player most responsible for making those schemes work is quarterback Louis Colosimo. A true option QB, Colosimo averaged 7.1 yards on his 61 rushing attempts. Kennesaw State will try to force Colosimo to put the ball in the air, a risky proposition for the Wildcats, since he only managed 11 touchdowns passes, compared with four interceptions.
An easy way to sum up the paucity of Davidson’s passing game is to take a look at the team’s receiving charts. Jalen Staples is the leading pass-catcher with just 22 receptions and a mere 240 yards to his credit. While his numbers are far from impressive, some of Colosimo’s weapons have made the most of minimal targets. Tight end Jackson Sherrard turned five of his six catches into touchdowns, good enough for the team-best mark. He’s an asset whenever the Wildcats sniff the goal-line.
Davidson’s own defense will also be focused on stopping the run so Hammond can be turned loose on Shepherd. The compact defensive end boasts tremendous speed off the edge and can get underneath most offensive tackles. Hammond is a game-wrecker, but he may need to curb his rush-first mentality against an Owls team sure to read him first before unleashing the misdirection plays that have worked all season.
Kennesaw State is the more accomplished team, and the Owls’ superior talent will eventually prove the difference.