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Disappointing end for GSU
Eagles fall to Bison in last minutes of the game
W Georgia Southern N Da Werm-1
North Dakota State's Ryan Drevlow stops Georgia Southern quarterback Jerick McKinnon on Friday during the FCS playoff semifinals of an NCAA college football game in Fargo, N.D. - photo by Associated Press

   FARGO, N.D. — The Georgia Southern Eagles came into the game making only 8 of 21 field goal attempts on the season.
    What's one more miss?
    Drew Ruggles, a soccer player recruited the day before the Eagles left Statesboro to face the North Dakota State Bison in the semifinals of the Football Championship Subdivision semifinals, had a 50-yard, game-tying field-goal attempt blocked in the final seconds as NDSU held on to defeat GSU, 23-20, to advance to the national title game for the second year in a row.
    It was the second-straight year the Eagles (10-4) lost to the Bison in the semifinals, and the third year in a row the Eagles' season ended one win short of a trip to the national title game.
    Bison quarterback Brock Jensen ran 45 yards on the game-winning drive, punching it in from five yards out with 3 minutes, 5 seconds remaining.
    The Eagles faced desperation, fourth-and-11 on their final drive, and got a miracle when Zach Walker caught a 40-yard pass down the sideline from Ezayi Youyoute.
    The blocked kick, however, ended GSU's chances.
    Jerick McKinnon rushed for a game- and team-high 168 yards for the Eagles, who out-gained NDSU (13-1), 430-276, in the game.
    The Eagles got the ball to start the second half, but disaster struck after back-to-back false starts, when NDSU's Christian Dudzik knocked the ball loose from McKinnon, and Grant Olson recovered.
    Two plays later, the Bison scored on a 53-yard run by Sam Ojuri — his longest of the year — to give NDSU its first lead, 16-13, with 10 minutes, 48 seconds left in the third quarter.
    The lead lasted exactly 5 minutes, 2 seconds, when McKinnon scored from 25 yards out to put GSU ahead, 20-16.
    The Eagles pounded their way to 80 rushing yards after the first play of the second quarter, passing NDSU's season average of 78.5 with three quarters left to play.
    The Eagles scored on their first drive, which was kept alive on third-and-6 by a 15-yard pass from Youyoute to Kentrellis Showers. It was Youyoute's first snap since the Eagles played Appalachian State on Nov. 3, in Paulson Stadium.
    The drive finished with J.J. Wilcox, who took a pitch on fourth-and-1 from the NDSU 4 and scored standing up.
    It was the first touchdown allowed by the NDSU defense throughout the 2012 playoffs, and the first in a playoff game since Dominique Swope scored from 23 yards out in the second quarter of the 2011 semifinals on Dec. 17, 2011.
    Wilcox, a safety, did not play an offensive snap since the Eagles last played in the Fargodome.
    The extra-point attempt by Alex Hanks was blocked, leaving GSU ahead, 6-0.
    The Bison didn't take long to answer, marching 74 yards on 10 plays. John Crockett scored from a yard out.
    The Eagles kept the score knotted when Brent Russell blocked the NDSU extra-point try.
    The next GSU score came almost too easily. McKinnon faked a toss to Johnathan Bryant and passed to Swope over the middle, who caught the pass, got hit, kept his balance, broke another tackle and scored from 49 yards out.
    It was Swope's first catch of the season, and third of his career.
    The Bison cut into the GSU score again, with 25 seconds left on the clock, when Adam Keller booted a 36-yard field goal to leave the Eagles up, 13-9, at the break.
    The teams exchanged punts early in the second quarter, due in large part to a drive-stopping, 9-yard sack by Russell. It was the 25th of his career, the most in Georgia Southern history.
    The Bison will play the winner between Sam Houston State and Eastern Washington, which takes place Saturday.

GSU's 430 yards were the most allowed by NDSU all season. ... GSU's 159 passing yards were the most since they passed for 166 against Appalachian State on Nov. 3. ... Georgia Southern fell to 45-13 all time in the FCS playoffs and 8-5 in semifinal games.

    Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.

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