Norfolk, VA (Sports Network) - To say that all a team needs to do is stop the run when facing Georgia Southern is an understatement.
There's no doubt the Eagles are going to run the ball, the only question is, how do you slow them down?
Saturday, it was clear Old Dominion still hadn't figured out the GSU triple option attack. Dominique Swope rushed for a game-high 186 yards and two touchdowns, quarterback Jerick McKinnon rushed for 171 yards and four touchdowns, and the Eagles enjoyed a 602-yard ground assault on the way to a 49-35 victory in the FCS quarterfinals.
Georgia Southern outscored ODU 28-0 in the fourth quarter to knock the Monarchs out of the playoffs for the second straight year. The Eagles (10-3) also advanced to the semifinals for the third straight year under third-year coach Jeff Monken. The six-time national champions will face either North Dakota State or Wofford next weekend.
"These kids just fought so hard, and I'm so proud of the effort of our players and everyone associated with our team," Georgia Southern coach Jeff Monken said. "We got down 14 and battled and fought and believed in each other. We carry that black flag as a symbol that we will never surrender, and we did not surrender today and haven't surrendered all season."
Last season, in a playoff matchup at Georgia Southern, the Eagles totaled 607 yards and rushed for 477, in a 55-48 shootout. The results were similar Saturday as the Eagles finished with 632 total yards.
Georgia Southern overcame a 35-21 deficit after three quarters to tie the game on McKinnon's second and third touchdowns of the game.
On ODU's ensuing drive, coach Bobby Wilder gambled with a 4th-and-6 on his team's 39-yard line, and quarterback Taylor Heinicke threw an incompletion as ODU turned the ball over on downs.
"That was a huge shift in momentum, and you have to have things like that happen and go your way to believe," Monken said. "That was a big play in the game."
Three plays later, Swope scored a 12-yard run, giving Georgia Southern a 42-35 lead with 2:36 left in the game.
On ODU's next play, Heinicke threw his first interception of the 2012 playoffs - only his 14th of the season - as senior safety J.J. Wilcox snagged his pass away from Nick Mayers with 2:28 remaining.
McKinnon then sealed the win with his fourth touchdown with 46 seconds left.
Heinicke broke Steve McNair's FCS single-season passing yardage record on ODU's first offensive drive of the second half, with a 40-yard completion to Mayers. The sophomore went on to complete 31-of-44 passes for 421 yards and three touchdowns to become the first FCS signal-caller to surpass 5,000 yards with 5,076.
Heinicke set another FCS single-season record with 398 completions, surpassing Brett Gordon's 386 for Villanova in 2002. He also led ODU with 48 rushing yards and one touchdown.
Georgia Southern had two different place-kickers miss field goals in the first half. Alex Hanks missed a 46-yard attempt and junior Luke Cherry missed a 30-yarder on the first kick of his career, which allowed ODU to take a 21-14 lead into halftime.
The first turnover of the game for either team came during a crucial moment with ODU driving early in the fourth quarter. Heinicke was sacked by Dion DuBose, forcing a fumble which was recovered by the Eagles on their own 21-yard line. ODU led 35-28 with 11:04 to play.
McKinnon then led the Eagles on a 12-play, 79-yard drive and capped it off with his third rushing touchdown of the game, evening the score at 35 with 5:32 remaining.
Georgia Southern's Darreion Robinson rushed for 76 yards on four carries, Johnathan Bryant had 71 yards and Tray Butler added 46 yards.
Old Dominion totaled 534 yards of offense, and receivers Antonio Vaughan and Mayers had huge games. They accounted for 16 receptions for 296 yards and three touchdowns in the loss.
Sam Houston State 34, Montana State 16
Bozeman, MT (Sports Network) - Montana State entered its FCS quarterfinal matchup with a shot a redemption, after Sam Houston State ended its season in the playoffs one year ago.
In last year's FCS quarterfinal, Montana State allowed 428 rushing yards. Friday night, Sam Houston beat Montana State again, this time through the air, 34-16, to again reach the semifinals again.
Quarterback Brian Bell completed 11-of-21 passes for 254 yards and three touchdowns, including two to Chance Nelson in the second half, and the Bearkats picked up a huge road playoff win.
Sam Houston State (10-3), the national FCS runner-up in 2011, will move on to face either Eastern Washington or Illinois State next weekend.
Coach Willie Fritz's Bearkats took control in the second quarter after the game was tied 3-3 through the first quarter. The visitors scored 17 unanswered points and shut down the Bobcats' offense, forcing them to punt on every possession in the quarter.
Richard Sincere scored a 12-yard touchdown on a direct snap to put SHSU ahead, 10-3, early in the quarter. The Bearkats then struck again less than five minutes later, as receiver Trey Diller broke free for a 56-yard touchdown pass from Bell with 9:41 left in the first half.
Montana State made a defensive stand inside the 10-yard line before halftime, holding Sam Houston to three points and a 20-3 lead at the break.
MSU opened the second half with a three-and-out, but on a 4th-and-4 inside its own territory, coach Rob Ash rolled the dice, faking a punt, and it paid off. The drive stayed alive and eventually quarterback DeNarius McGhee scored from 8 yards out with 9:05 in the third quarter. The lead was cut to 20-9 after a missed extra point.
Momentum shifted back to Sam Houston, after MSU receiver John Ellis had the ball striped from his hands by Dax Swanson, and Andrew Weaver recovered the ball on the Bobcats' 16-yard line.
One play later, Bell found Chance Nelson for a touchdown and the 'Kats led 26-9 with 2:49 left in the third quarter.
The duo hooked up again on the team's next possession - this time on a 3rd- and-16 - for 45 yards to put the game away at 34-9 lead with 12:18 remaining in the game. The touchdown capped off a seven-play, 74-yard drive.
Nelson finished with five receptions for 89 yards and two touchdowns.
Sam Houston rushed for 204 yards, with running back Timothy Flanders carrying the ball 31 times for 106 yards. Sincere added eight carries for 30 yards and the one touchdown.
Montana State was held to just 72 rushing yards and 1-of-12 on third down conversions. McGhee passed for 221 yards and one touchdown. However, his interception and the team's lost fumble led to 10 points for SHSU.
Bell added to his own school record for wins as a starting quarterback and now has 29 in his career. It's the second straight year the Bearkats advanced to the national semifinals.
Montana State was plagued by injuries to key players as leading rusher Cody Kirk and linebacker Jody Owens, the Big Sky Conference defensive player of the year, were both lost in the first half.