(15) New Hampshire (9-4) at (7) Southeastern Louisiana (11-2)
The Sports Network
By Brandon Lawrence, FCS Assistant
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 14, 7 p.m. (ET).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Strawberry Stadium (7,408) -- Hammond, Louisiana. Surface: Artificial Turf. Television: ESPN3.com, ESPN Game Plan. Announcers: Bob Picozzi, Al Groh. Home Record: New Hampshire 6-0; Southeastern Louisiana 7-0. Away Record: New Hampshire 3-4; Southeastern Louisiana 4-2. Series Record: First meeting. Conference: New Hampshire - Colonial Athletic Association; Southeastern Louisiana - Southland. Nicknames: New Hampshire Wildcats; Southeastern Louisiana Lions. Sports Network FCS Ranking: New Hampshire (15); Southeastern Louisiana (7). NCAA Playoff Seedings: New Hampshire (NS); Southeastern Louisiana (4). Head Coaches: New Hampshire - Sean McDonell (15th season, 113-70 at New Hampshire and overall); Southeastern Louisiana - Ron Roberts (second season, 16-8 at Southeastern Louisiana; seventh season - 63-24 overall). Playoff Records: New Hampshire (8-11); Southeastern Louisiana (1-0). Previous FCS Playoff Appearances: New Hampshire 11 (1991, 94, 2004-12); Southeastern Louisiana 0. Current Playoff Streak: New Hampshire has won its last two playoff games; Southeastern Louisiana won its only playoff appearance.
GAME NOTES: With their back against the wall ever since an Oct. 5 loss to Towson that set them back to a 1-3 record, the New Hampshire Wildcats have been on fire in must-win situations.
The Wildcats have won eight of their last nine games, including five in a row, and, for the first time in program history, two consecutive playoff games.
New Hampshire defeated Lafayette, 45-7, in the first round at home, then traveled to Maine and beat the fifth-seeded Black Bears, 41-27. Only Coastal Carolina (90) has scored more points in two games this postseason than New Hampshire (86). Jacksonville State also has scored 86 through two games.
Now New Hampshire must contend with the No. 4 seed and Southland Conference champion Southeastern Louisiana. Since we're mentioning teams that are hot at the right time, the Lions should be and are right at the top of that list.
Southeastern Louisiana has won 10 consecutive games, including the last three at home, twice over Sam Houston State, a team that had been to back-to-back national championships. One of the Lions' two losses this season was to TCU in Week 2.
The Lions are led by junior quarterback and Oregon transfer Bryan Bennett. Last weekend, Bennett led all passers and rushers in the game with 286 passing yards (two touchdowns) and 83 rushing yards (one touchdown). His season scoring totals are now 20 passing and 15 rushing.
Overall, the Lions average 40.1 points per game, good for seventh in the FCS and second in the Southland Conference. Bennett accounts for 16.2 points per game and has a passing efficiency of 155.6 - seventh in the nation.
Bennett's 1-yard touchdown pass with 36 seconds remaining gave Southeastern a 30-29 win over the Bearkats last weekend.
The Wildcats have never won a quarterfinal game in program history, but this could be the postseason of first for New Hampshire. It's already the first Wildcats team to win two playoff games in the same postseason, but prior to last weekend, New Hampshire had never beaten a CAA opponent in the playoffs.
New Hampshire will have to force Bennett and the Lions to turn the ball over in order to win. Southeastern Louisiana's last defeat - a loss to South Dakota State Sept. 14 - was made so by Bennett's four interceptions and a team total of six turnovers. The Wildcats will need Manny Asam, Casey DeAndrade and the rest of the backfield to be sharp. New Hampshire has a plus-five turnover margin.
The Lions will need to feed off the home crowd as these two streaking teams battle it out Saturday night. Bennett's experience and collectiveness could finally sink the Wildcats.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Southeastern Louisiana 32, New Hampshire 30.
12/10 13:30:01 ET