FCS Playoff Quarterfinals Roundup
Fargo, ND (SportsNetwork.com) - Distractions?
About the only thing that got in the way of two-time defending FCS champion North Dakota State on Saturday was the fact it didn't score on one of its seven first-half possessions.
When the Bison are dominating in such a way, they are going to smother the upset dreams of any opponent, and the top-seeded team in the FCS playoffs did just that while rolling to a 48-14 rout of Coastal Carolina in the national quarterfinals.
The Bison (13-0), who have won a Division I-high 22 straight games, will host New Hampshire (10-4) in the semifinals Friday night. The winner will then advance to Frisco, Texas, for the national championship game on Jan. 4.
NDSU's thorough win came one week after 11th-year head coach Craig Bohl accepted the same position at the University of Wyoming. Bohl, who has a 102-32 career record, is finishing the postseason with the Bison, however.
The news had no effect on his team's performance. The Bison have had the best defense in the FCS for three years running, and they slowed a Coastal Carolina offense that entered the game ranked third nationally with a 43-point average. And their offense, bolstered by quarterback Brock Jensen and a dominant running game, has long been underrated, this season ranking No. 1 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference in scoring offense and No. 17 nationally entering the weekend.
Jensen, whose career win total leading the Bison is an FCS-record 46, rushed for a pair of first-half touchdowns and threw for two more in the fourth quarter, while compiling 262 yards of total offense. Running back Sam Ojuri also scored on two touchdown runs, leading a 424-yard rushing attack with 162 yards on 20 carries.
The Bison even outperformed their FCS-leading average in time of possession, which was 33 minutes, 49 seconds, by 5 1/2 minutes.
Defensively, middle linebacker Carlton Littlejohn led the Bison with nine tackles and free safety Christian Dudzik had interceptions on back-to-back Coastal Carolina possessions in the fourth quarter.
Coastal Carolina, from Conway, S.C., followed its 2,492-mile trip to Montana for a second-round win last weekend with a 1,584-mile trek to North Dakota State. Once inside the Fargodome, though, the Chanticleeers (12-3) were halted by a road block.
In the first-ever meeting between the two programs, North Dakota State scored on its first three possessions to grab a commanding 17-0 lead in the first quarter. The visitors didn't know what hit them while the Bison rolled to a 219-29 advantage in yards in the quarter.
Jensen's 39-yard run set up a 26-yard field goal by Adam Keller to cap the Bison's first possession. Ojuri broke free for a 73-yard touchdown run on their next possession. Jensen then accounted for everything on a 54-yard drive, completing two passes before he eased into the Chanticleers' end zone on a 10-yard bootleg
North Dakota State didn't score on its fourth drive, but followed that with touchdowns on Jensen's 1-yard keeper and an Ojuri 4-yard run on the ensuing drives to make it 31-0.
John Israel's 46-yard reception to the NDSU 3 allowed the Chanticleers to end the shutout on Lorenzo Taliaferro's touchdown run two plays later - his Big South Conference-record 29th touchdown this season - with 30 seconds left in the second quarter.
But the Bison weren't even finished at that point as they finished the half with Keller converting a 48-yard field goal for a 34-7 lead.
The second half was merely a formality as North Dakota State moved within two wins of capturing a third straight FCS national title, which has only been accomplished by the 2005-07 teams at Appalachian State.
The Bison improved to 12-1 all-time in the FCS playoffs. Their only loss was in overtime in 2010 at eventual national champion Eastern Washington. Since then, they have won 10 straight games in the postseason.
New Hampshire (10-4) 20, No. 4 seed Southeastern Louisiana (11-3) 17
Hammond, LA - The postseason of firsts continued for New Hampshire football Saturday night as the Wildcats overcame a late-game deficit to advance to their first FCS semifinals appearance with a win over No. 4 seed Southeastern Louisiana in the national quarterfinals.
New Hampshire quarterback Sean Goldrich didn't let a late-game interception and an incredible escape-act touchdown pass from Lions quarterback Bryan Bennett affect his Wildcats' final drive, which led to the game-winning touchdown.
Goldrich ended the game completing 24-of-35 pass attempts for 276 yards and an interception, but led the Wildcats' ground attack with 99 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries, which included the game-winning 1-yard plunge with 47 seconds remaining.
It was the first meeting between Southland Conference champion Southeastern Louisiana and Colonial Athletic Association playoff staple New Hampshire. The Wildcats are now 1-6 all-time in quarterfinals matchups. They advance to face the top-seeded North Dakota State Bison in Fargo on Friday.
New Hampshire kicker Mike MacArthur had his final extra point attempt of the night blocked by the Lions, but the Wildcats defense swallowed up a final hook- and-lateral play by the Lions on a last-ditch effort to win.
Minutes earlier, Bennett gave his Lions the lead on a 5-yard touchdown pass (from roughly his 18-yard line) after escaping multiple tacklers when he found Marquis Fruge' wide open in the back of the end zone. The play was reviewed and the call stood, which gave the Lions a 17-14 lead.
Goldrich then went on the offensive, moving the ball down the field and converting on a season-saving 4th-and-1 quarterback keeper in Lions territory.
New Hampshire outgained Southeastern on the ground, 203 yards to 75, and in total offensive yards, 479-344.
Junior receiver R.J. Harris was Goldrich's favorite target Saturday, catching 11 passes for 110 yards. Senior Justin Mello had five receptions for 84 yards.
Bennett finished the game 25-of-46 passing for 269 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He carried the ball 12 times for 29 yards and a touchdown. He finished the season with 16 rushing touchdowns, leading the Southland Conference.
Southeastern jumped on the scoreboard first on a Bennett 3-yard touchdown run with just under 10 minutes to play in the first quarter. But the rest of the first half belonged to New Hampshire.
Goldrich ran in one of his two first-half touchdowns from 32 yards out, knotting the score at 7-7 just a few minutes after Bennett's touchdown run.
In the second quarter, Goldrich pounded home a 1-yard touchdown run to give the Wildcats the 14-7 lead, which they took into halftime.
Goldrich had 84 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns on 10 carries at the midway point.
New Hampshire outgained the Lions by nearly 100 yards offensively in the first half, 246-151.
The loss was the first at home for Southeastern Louisiana, and the first loss since a Sept. 14 defeat to South Dakota State. The Lions had won 10 consecutive games entering the quarterfinal matchup.
The Wildcats have won nine of their last 10 games, including four on the road.
New Hampshire is now 9-9 in its 10th consecutive playoff appearance. The Wildcats are 5-2 versus nationally ranked teams and have won each of the last five matchups with those opponents.
No. 3 seed Eastern Washington (12-2) 35, Jacksonville State (11-4) 24
Cheney, WA (SportsNetwork.com) - Huge plays from underclassmen have been the key to Eastern Washington's success throughout the 2013 season.
Typically the heroics of sophomore quarterback Vernon Adams and freshman receiver Cooper Kupp spread the stat sheet from week to week for the Eagles. But in an FCS quarterfinal-round matchup with a hot Jacksonville State team, it was freshman linebacker Albert Havili who sealed the Eagles' 35-24 victory at Roos Field Saturday.
Havili stepped in front of a Max Shortell pass with just under 11 minutes to play in the fourth quarter, easily intercepting the throw and returning the ball 77 yards to put Eastern Washington up by 11, which proved to be the final score of the contest.
Third-seeded Eastern Washington (12-2) advanced to the national semifinals for the second consecutive season and third time in four years. The Big Sky Conference champions will host seventh-seeded Towson (12-2) next Saturday. The Tigers defeated No. 2 seed Eastern Illinois, 49-39, in a quarterfinal Friday night.
"I am really proud of our guys to keep fighting," EWU coach Beau Badlwin said. "We found different ways to win this game than we did a week ago (against South Dakota State). Who knows what kind of game we will be in next week, but we know it will be against a very good opponent. We are happy to get one more shot at home with next week's ball game."
Though the visiting Gamecocks (11-4) had several chances to try to regain the lead, a costly turnover on downs with over seven minutes to play and a Shortell interception with 58 seconds left ended the Ohio Valley Conference squad's season.
Adams, a Walter Payton Award finalist, ended his up-and-down day 18-of-29 passing for 324 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Receiver Ashton Clark was Adams' favorite target, hauling in 11 receptions for 181 yards and a touchdown.
Eagles running back Quincy Forte carried the ball 24 times for 190 yards and two touchdowns. It's the second straight playoff game Forte has come up big for Eastern Washington, as his 202-yard, one-touchdown performance last weekend helped his Eagles beat South Dakota State.
Jacksonville State quarterback Eli Jenkins left the game at the end of the first half with a knee injury and was replaced by the junior Shortell. When Jenkins left, he had already accumulated 127 passing yards on 12-of-14 passing, and 118 rushing yards on 14 carries.
Shortell was 12-of-22 for 173 yards with two interceptions.
Gamecocks running back DaMarcus James finished the game with 46 rushing yards and a touchdown on 15 carries, bringing his season touchdown total to 29.
Both teams missed opportunities to get on the scoreboard early in the first quarter. Forte was stripped of the ball on Jacksonville State's 1-yard line, which was recovered by the Gamecocks. And Jacksonville State place-kicker Griffin Thomas missed a field goal on the game's first attempt.
Adams found Kupp on a 29-yard touchdown strike on the Eagles' ensuing possession, extending the freshman's scoring reception record to 14 straight games. He ended his day with 99 receiving yards and the one score gave him 21 touchdowns this season.
Jacksonville State was quick to answer, as Jenkins gave an end-around handoff to Telvin Brown inside the Eagles' 5-yard line on the Gamecocks' next possession. Brown pulled up short of the line of scrimmage and fired a scoring pass to tight end Gavin Ellis, knotting the score at 7-7.
Forte, with the aid of solid blocking, gained 82 yards on 11 carries in the first half, highlighted by a 3-yard touchdown run that tied the score, 14-14, midway through the second quarter. The teams ended the first half tied, 21-21.
With the win, Eastern Washington improved to 7-0 at home on the red turf this season. The Eagles set Big Sky records for single-season scoring (561) and passing offense (4,853), with Adams breaking the conference record for passing yards (4,600).
No. 7 seed Towson (12-2) 49, No. 2 seed Eastern Illinois (12-2) 39
Charleston, IL - Towson went west to Eastern Illinois for the FCS national quarterfinals Friday night.
Make that Towson followed Terrance West to an upset victory.
The junior tailback rushed for a playoff-record 354 yards as well as five touchdowns to earn the seventh-seeded Tigers a win at second-seeded Eastern Illinois and their first-ever berth in the semifinals.
The game was billed as a battle of top Walter Payton Award finalists between West and national passing leader Jimmy Garoppolo of Eastern Illinois. Each hopes to have his name called Monday night as the outstanding player in the FCS, as does Eastern Washington quarterback Vernon Adams.
Eastern Washington (12-2) is next to try to slow Towson (12-2) and its amazing 5-foot-11, 223-pound tailback in the semifinals next Saturday.
Garoppolo came up big as usual Friday night, finishing 38-of-50 for 321 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for two touchdowns with one lost fumble.
But West, the 2011 Jerry Rice Award winner as the national freshman of the year, enjoyed his biggest game ever on snow-covered O'Brien Field. He averaged over nine yards on his 39 carries as Towson posted its 11th straight road win, including eight this season.
"It took us a while to get used to the snow," said Towson coach Rob Ambrose. "We have never even practiced on a snowy field. Once we figured out what we could do, we were fine."
Neither team had much fun defending the other in the offensive showcase - also the first-ever meeting between the two programs.
Towson, from CAA Football, took its first double-digit lead at 35-24 on West's fourth touchdown run, a 5-yarder with 1:13 left in the third quarter.
But Eastern Illinois quickly responded on Garoppolo's 39-yard touchdown pass to an open tight end Jeff LePak in the Towson end zone at the 14:35 mark of the fourth quarter. When Garoppolo connected on a 2-point conversion to wide receiver Erik Lora, the Panthers pulled within 35-32.
But that the was the closest the Ohio Valley Conference champion got again.
EIU later punted from its end zone, and that set up short field position for Towson at the Panthers' 42. West broke off a 37-yard run on the second play of their ensuing drive and freshman Darius Victor scored from 3 yards out on the next play to push the Tigers' lead back to double digits, 42-32 with 9:53 left.
Following a Garoppolo fumble that was recovered by Towson's Syd Holt at the EIU 22, the Tigers put the game away on West's fifth touchdown from 3 yards out. The TD tied his career high as well as the FCS single-season record of 39, first set by Delaware's Omar Cuff in 2007.
Most opponents don't survive an early onslaught from Eastern Illinois, but Towson did after the Panthers scored touchdowns on their first two drives. It pushed their first-quarter scoring advantage to 257-38 this season.
But the Tigers scored 21 unanswered points in the second quarter to take a halftime lead. West scored on a pair of runs, including a 63-yard bolt along the EIU sideline to give the Tigers the 21-14 lead with 4:39 left in the half.
It marked the first time EIU trailed at halftime since its only other loss to Northern Illinois back on Sept. 21.
The loss to Towson was EIU's first against an FCS opponent this season. The visiting Tigers were seeded seventh in the playoffs despite finishing the regular season with a No. 5 national ranking.
West went over 2,000 rushing yards for the season. The FCS rushing leader has 2,305 yards.
Garoppolo finished his season with FCS passing highs of 374 completions (a national single-season record), 5,050 yards and 53 touchdowns.
Lora caught 18 passes for 129 yards and one touchdown. He set the OVC career record with 4,006 receiving yards.
12/15 15:29:15 ET