(10) New Hampshire (9-2) vs. (8) McNeese State (9-2)
The Sports Network
By Brett Kahn, FCS Assistant Editor
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 28th, 3 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Cowboy Stadium (17,410) -- Lake Charles, Louisiana. Surface: Artificial Turf. Television: None. Home Record: New Hampshire 6-0: McNeese State 6-0. Away Record: New Hampshire 3-2; McNeese State 3-2. Series Record: First meeting. Conference: New Hampshire - Colonial Athletic Association; McNeese State - Southland. Sports Network Ranking: New Hampshire (10); McNeese State (8). Nicknames: New Hampshire Wildcats; McNeese State Cowboys. Coaches: New Hampshire - Sean McDonnell (79-52); McNeese State - Matt Viator (33-9). Playoff Record: New Hamshire (4-7); McNeese State (11-12).
GAME NOTES: McNeese State and New Hampshire have never faced off before, but will meet in the first round of the 2009 FCS playoffs.
The Cowboys are making their first playoff appearance since winning back-to- back Southland Conference title in 2006 and 2007. McNeese fell to Montana in the first round in 2006 and lost as the No. 2 seed to Eastern Washington in the same fashion in 2007.
MSU earned an at-large bid this season, after sharing the league title with Stephen F. Austin.
McNeese State is coming off of a 21-17 win over Central Arkansas to clinch its piece of the SLC title. The Cowboys managed just 250 yards of total offense against the Bears, but scored three touchdowns on the ground, with Payton Award nominee Todd Pendland (992 yards rushing, 17 TDs) compiling 44 yards rushing and a four-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. The All-American ranks 12th nationally in rushing and leads FCS in scoring.
Quarterback Derrick Fourroux (2,914 yards of total offense, 25 TDs, six interceptions) had his 11-game streak with at least one touchdown pass broken against UCA as he picked up just 83 yards through the air.
But the multi-talented senior ran for 50 yards and a score. Fourroux ranks 13th nationally in passing efficiency and 18th in total offense.
The Cowboys wide receiving corps features five players with at least 24 catches, including Immanuel Friddle (28 catches, 14.5 average) and tight ends Corday Clark (24 catches, 16.2 average, five TDs) and Wesley Mangan (28 catches, 10.6 average, four TDs).
McNeese State ranks 64th nationally in total defense and allows almost 26 points per game.
The unit does rank 35th in sacks. Standout players include freshmen, safety Malcolm Bronson (62 tackles, four pass breakups) and Seth Thomas (four pass breakups, three interceptions) and defensive end Joshua Ellison (29 tackles, 11 tackles for loss).
New Hampshire is making its sixth straight playoff appearance. UNH has made it to the second round in four of those appearances, including last season in which the Wildcats beat Southern Illinois, but fell to Northern Iowa, 36-34 in the quarterfinals.
This season, the Wildcats earned an at-large bid for the fourth consecutive season, taking down Maine, 27-24 in the regular season finale to win the CAA North Division crown.
The UNH rushing attack picked up steam against the Black Bears, with Chad Kackert (727 yards rushing, nine TDs) leading the way with 85 yards and one score. UNH's rushing attack ranks 37th nationally.
New Hampshire quarterback R.J. Toman (2,158 yards of total offense, 15 TDs, 11 interceptions) has not had the season he was expected to have, but helped secure the Wildcats' 14th-ranked scoring offense. The senior has only passed for over 200 yards in four games this season and is coming into the playoffs having tossed five interceptions in his last four games.
All-American tight end Scott Sicko (48 catches, 13.4 average, seven TDs) is the most dangerous pass catcher on the team and possibly the best tight end in FCS. Sicko has racked up at least seven touchdown catches in three straight seasons.
Only one other receiver has over 20 catches for the Wildcats this season in J.T. Wright (29 catches, 12.1 average).
After a strong start of 2009 for the New Hampshire defense, the unit has stumbled as of late, giving up over 20 points in four straight games, including 42 points to a struggling Rhode Island squad.
Key performers include linebackers Devon Jackson (91 tackles, eight tackles for loss), Sean Ware (90 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss) and Terrence Klein (70 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, five interceptions) and All-CAA cornerback Dino Vasso (70 tackles, six pass breakups, five interceptions).
Both defenses have struggled late, but the consistency of McNeese State's offense might be able to lead the team to the second round.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: McNeese State 28, New Hampshire 24.
11/27 14:41:59 ET