(20) Jacksonville State (11-3) at (3) Eastern Washington (11-2)
The Sports Network
By Brandon Lawrence, FCS Assistant
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 14, 4:05 p.m. (ET).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Roos Field (8,600) -- Cheney, Washington. Surface: Red Sprinturf. Television: ESPN3.com Announcers: Trey Bender, Kevin O'Connell. Home Record: Jacksonville State 5-2; Eastern Washington 6-0. Away Record: Jacksonville State 6-1; Eastern Washington 5-2. Series Record: First meeting. Conference: Jacksonville State - Ohio Valley; Eastern Washington - Big Sky. Nicknames: Jacksonville State Gamecocks; Eastern Washington Eagles. Sports Network FCS Ranking: Jacksonville State (20); Eastern Washington (3). NCAA Playoff Seedings: Jacksonville State (NS); Eastern Washington (3). Head Coaches: Jacksonville State - Bill Clark (first season, 11-3 at Jacksonville State and overall); Eastern Washington - Beau Baldwin (sixth season, 55-21 at Eastern Washington; seven seasons, 65-24 overall). Playoff Records: Jacksonville State (2-3); Eastern Washington (12-8). Previous FCS Playoff Appearances: Jacksonville State 3 (2003-04, 2010); Eastern Washington 9 (1985, 1992, 1997, 2004-05, 2007, 2009-10, 2012 - 2010 FCS Champion). Current Playoff Streak: Jacksonville State has won its last two playoff games; Eastern Washington has won seven of its last eight playoff appearances.
GAME NOTES: There's some disparity between Eastern Washington and Jacksonville State in terms of regular-season accomplishments.
The Eagles won an outright Big Sky Conference title and were ranked in the Top 3 for a better portion of the season. As the No. 3 seed in the playoffs, the Eagles are (and were) guaranteed home playoff games at least until the semifinals.
Jacksonville State finished third in the Ohio Valley Conference and needed wins at home against Samford and on the road at McNeese State to get to the quarters. But now that the Gamecocks are here, it's anyone's game.
Both teams are built to score points, but have defenses that don't get as much attention as they deserve. Jacksonville State is ranked 28th in the FCS and third in the OVC in scoring defense, holding opponents to 22.8 points per game.
The Gamecocks dominated McNeese State from the start last Saturday in Lake Charles, La., forcing Cowboys senior quarterback Cody Stroud to throw two interceptions and go 18-for-40 (45 percent).
Meanwhile, senior running back DaMarcus James was busy on the offensive side against McNeese, scoring two 1-yard touchdown runs in the second quarter and icing a Gamecocks victory with a 3-yard burst for a score in the fourth. After last week, James is now second in the nation behind Terrance West with 28 rushing touchdowns.
But, of course, Jacksonville State has Vernon Adams and the high-flying Eagles offense to contend with. Adams electrified South Dakota State last weekend with a 217-yard, five-touchdown performance complemented by running back Quincy Forte's 202 rushing yards and one touchdown.
Adams is second in the nation in points responsible for per game with a 25.7 average. As an offense, the Eagles average 40.5 points per game. So even if Adams is shut down by Jacksonville State, the Gamecocks still have plenty of other pieces that they need to account for on the offense.
With players like linebacker Ronnie Hamlin (114 total tackles, two interceptions, a forced and recovered fumble) and cornerback T.J. Lee III (93 total tackles, an interception, 10 pass breakups and four forced and recovered fumbles), the Eagles will try to account for James and freshman dual-threat quarterback Eli Jenkins.
In two postseason games as the starting quarterback, Jenkins has thrown for 235 yards and two touchdowns, and rushed for 212 yards and a score.
Eastern Washington and South Dakota State were tied 14-14 heading into the second half in the second round last Saturday, but the Jackrabbits managed only one field goal in the second half against the Eagles defense. That includes a game total of 71 rushing yards from junior back Zach Zenner - the nation's (current) leading rusher with over 2,000 yards this season.
The Eagles are 6-0 at home on the red turf this season. Although Jacksonville State has a powerful offensive game of its own, especially on the ground, Eastern Washington's attack should be able to thwart an upset attempt by the Gamecocks.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Eastern Washington 36, Jacksonville State 28.
12/11 05:51:32 ET