Holy Cross, New Hampshire could be headed for a showdown in the second round of the FCS playoffs

A record fourth straight Patriot League overall champion, an automatic bid and a spotless record allowed Holy Cross to earn a bye in the first round of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.

The Crusaders (11-0) finished 8th in the 24-team field, it was announced Sunday.

New Hampshire (8-3) was the only other New England program to qualify, and hosts Fordham (9-2) in the first round at 2 p.m. Saturday. The Wildcats eluded Maine with an overtime win on Saturday, finishing the Colonial Athletic Association 7-1 and clinching a part of the conference title with William & Mary.

The Wildcats’ last FCS playoff appearance was in 2017, when they made it to the quarterfinals before being eliminated by South Dakota State.

Fordham manager Joe Conlin spent seven seasons (2004-10) as an assistant at UNH. Kevin Decker, Fordham’s offensive coordinator/QB coach, is a 2012 UNH graduate who won the 2011 CAA Offensive Player of the Year award as the Wildcats quarterback.

The Fordham-UNH winner will travel to Worcester’s Fitton Field at midday on December 3 to take on Holy Cross.

The Crusaders finished their third regular season 11-0 in school history with a win over Georgetown on Saturday. The perfect record includes a 53-52 win in overtime against Fordham.

Last year Holy Cross won its first FCS playoff game when it defeated Sacred Heart 13-10 and fell 21-6 in the second round to 5th-ranked Villanova. The Crusaders lost to Monmouth in the 2019 playoffs and to South Dakota State in 2020. Their only other post-season FCS appearance came in 2009, also a loss to Villanova (first round). Before the Division 1-AA name change to FCS in 2006, the Crusaders made the 1983 playoffs, losing to Western Carolina. In 1946, Holy Cross lost the Orange Bowl to Miami.

The Crusaders, ranked sixth in the latest Stats Perform FCS Top 25 and FCS Coaches polls, average 39.1 points and 238.4 rushing yards per game, both of which are in the top 10 countries.

South Dakota State (10-1) received the top seed for the FCS tournament, followed by No. 2 Sacramento State (11-0), No. 3 North Dakota State (9-2), and No. 4 Montana State ( 10-1). North Dakota State has won nine of the last 11 FCS championships, including a 38-10 win over Montana State last year.

The FCS national championship game will be held in Frisco, Texas on January 8th.

Brendan Kurie can be reached at [email protected]