(6) Georgia Southern (10-3) at (1) North Dakota State (12-1)
The Sports Network
By Tim McDonnell, FCS Assistant
DATE & TIME: Friday, December 14, 8:05 p.m. ET
FACTS & STATS: Site: Gate City Bank Field/Fargodome (18,700) -- Fargo, N.D.
Surface: AstroTurf's GameDay Grass. Television: ESPN2. Announcers: Dave Neal,
Andre Ware and Cara Capuano. Home Record: Georgia Southern 6-1; North Dakota
State 7-1. Away Record: Georgia Southern 4-2; North Dakota State 4-0. Neutral
Record: Georgia Southern 0-0; North Dakota State 1-0. Series Record: North
Dakota State (2-0). Last Meeting: Dec. 17, 2011 (North Dakota State won, 35-7,
at North Dakota State). Series Streak: North Dakota State has won both
meetings. Nicknames: Georgia Southern Eagles; North Dakota State Bison.
Conferences: Georgia Southern - Southern; North Dakota State - Missouri Valley.
Sports Network Ranking: Georgia Southern (6); North Dakota State (1). NCAA FCS
Playoffs Seedings: Georgia Southern (5); North Dakota State (1). Coaches: Jeff
Monken (3rd season, 31-11 at Georgia Southern and overall); North Dakota State
- Craig Bohl (10th season, 87-32 at North Dakota State at overall). FCS
Playoff Records: Georgia Southern (6 National Championships - 1985-86, 89-90,
99-2000 - 45-12; North Dakota State 8-1. Previous FCS Playoff Appearances:
Georgia Southern 18 (1985-90, 1993, 1995, 1997-2002, 2004-05, 10-11); North
Dakota State 2 (2010-11). Current Playoff Streak: Georgia Southern has won
seven of its last nine playoff games; North Dakota State has won its last six
GAME NOTES: For the second straight season, Georgia Southern travels to North
Dakota State for a matchup in the FCS semifinals. It's also the team's third
straight trip to the semifinals under third-year coach Jeff Monken.
There's no question, the Eagles' faithful in Statesboro, Ga., have to be
excited with the direction of the program in the last couple years. After all,
GSU has won six FCS national titles with an all-time playoff record of 45-12.
But let's face it, another season coming up just short of a title would be
Of course, this year's team is entirely different than the last two playoff
squads, but in the last two trips to the semifinals, the offense has
struggled. In 2010, versus Delaware, Georgia Southern managed just 10 points
and 310 total yards and turned the ball over five times. Last year versus
NDSU, the Eagles scored just one touchdown, fumbled the ball three times and
only rushed for 186 yards.
This season, the offense has improved under its new leader, quarterback Jerick
McKinnon. He's rushed for 1,649 yards and 19 touchdowns in 13 games. The
junior scored four rushing touchdowns last Saturday in an impressive
quarterfinal-round win over Old Dominion and makes other players around him
more dangerous because opponents have to account for multiple threats.
B-Back Dominique Swope is the second-hand man, rushing for 1,169 yards and 16
touchdowns this season. There's even more depth with Jonathan Brown (500
yards, two touchdowns, 9.4 yards per carry) and Darreion Robinson (483 yards,
four touchdowns). The Eagles rank first in the FCS in rushing with 409 yards
For North Dakota State, the key will be trying to slow down, not shut down,
the triple option offense, like it did versus fellow Southern Conference
member Wofford last Saturday.
The Bison escaped with a 14-7 victory, although they allowed 362 yards of
offense and 262 rushing yards - unheard of for a defense which gives up 78
rushing yards per game. However, two enormous second-half defensive red zone
stops, and a ridiculous performance by linebacker Grant Olson - in which he
set a school record with 29 tackles - helped the Bison advance to the
semifinals for the second straight year.
NDSU's top-ranked defense certainly has its work cut for it this week.
The unit still leads the FCS in scoring (10.8 points per game), total defense
(207 yards per game), defensive third down efficiency (26.1 percent) and
first downs allowed (11.3 per game). In 13 games, teams have scored just
three rushing touchdowns, and in two playoff games, no opponent has scored an
NDSU leads the FCS in time of possession (35 minutes, 14 seconds) and GSU ranks
Georgia Southern's defense is much-improved and plays well against the run,
allowing 130 yards per game. That's important because the Bison look to
quarterback Brock Jensen to control the offense, not make a lot of throws with
his arm. In the last two games, Jensen has thrown for only 205 yards.
Considering both teams run the ball with success, the receivers don't get much
attention. NDSU's Zach Vraa and Ryan Smith only average 50.5 and 49 yards per
game, but when called upon, they can make the most of an opportunity.
Watch out for GSU's Zach Walker and Kentrellis Showers as well. Both are
phenomenal blocking receivers who only have eight receptions each this season,
but can sneak past the secondary for big plays.
First and foremost, Monken's squad needs to forget about what happened in the
past and hold onto the football. Expect North Dakota State to use the
combination of running backs John Crockett (896 yards, eight touchdowns) and
Sam Oujuri (884 yards, nine touchdowns) to wear down the Eagles with long,
The storyline heading into this Friday night prime time matchup is all about
Georgia Southern's offense versus the Bison defense. It might end up being the
other way around because the Eagles defense could give NDSU plenty of problems.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: North Dakota State 31, Georgia Southern 26.
12/12 21:19:36 ET
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