#5 Georgia Southern Eagles (10-3) at #1 North Dakota State Bison (12-1)
FCS Playoffs, Semifinals
Radio: 103.7 FM
For the third-straight year Georgia Southern (10-3) will play in the FCS Semifinals and for a second-straight year will travel to North Dakota State (12-1) for the game. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. Friday night on ESPN2.
The Eagles will play on Friday night for the first time in school history and for just the fourth time on a day other than Saturday.
Friday will be the third series meeting between the two schools with the last two coming in the FCS Semifinals. North Dakota State has won both previous contests.
GSU is 45-12 all-time and is 12-9 away from Statesboro in the playoffs. Their 45 playoff wins ranks first in the FCS.
The Eagles’ offense leads the Southern Conference in scoring offense, total offense and rushing offense.
They also rank first in the FCS in rushing offense, eighth in total offense and 9th in scoring offense.
QB Jerick McKinnon and B-Back Dominique Swope are the only two SoCon teammates to rank in the top-5 in rushing. They also are second and third in the league in scoring, respectively.
Georgia Southern’s defense leads the Southern Conference in sacks, while DE Javon Mention and DE Dion DuBose rank fourth and seventh in sacks, respectively.
QB Jerick McKinnon’s 1,649 rushing yards on the year ranks fourth all-time in school history and is 283 yards shy of tying Adrian Peterson’s school record of 1,932 yards.
The Eagles are the FCS’ winningest team (with more than 50 games played) posting a .722 winning percentage and 287 all-time wins.
Head Coach Jeff Monken has now led the Eagles to 10 or more wins in each of his three seasons at the helm of the program. He joins Paul Johnson as the only two Eagle coaches to have won 10 or more games in their first three seasons.
The last set of Military Appreciation Day camouflage jerseys are up for auction now through Sunday. The shortened website is tinyurl.com/camojerseys2012.
For just the fifth time in school history, Georgia Southern has two 1,000-yard rushers in the same season. QB Jerick McKinnon and B-Back Dominique Swope have combined for 2,818 rushing yards and 35 touchdowns this season.
McKinnon has three of the top-90 single-game rushing performances in the FCS this season. His latest of 171 yards and four touchdowns against Old Dominion ranks 89th in the country.
McKinnon has scored multiple rushing touchdowns in four-straight games and five of the last six contests.
LB John Stevenson needs just one more tackle to reach 100 tackles for the season. The former walk-on would be the first Eagle to reach that mark since Josh Rowe in 2010.
DT Brent Russell needs just a half sack to become the school’s career sack leader.
The Eagles have converted 44.7 percent of their third downs, while holding their opponents to a 37.0 percent conversion rate.
Georgia Southern has not been shutout in 218 consecutive games dating back to a 45-0 loss to Montana in the 1995 FCS Playoffs.
The Eagles’ 602 rushing yards at Old Dominion were the second most in the SoCon this season.
Georgia Southern has tallied 300 or more yards of total offense in all but one game this season.
The Eagles’ 29 rushing first downs at Old Dominion were the second most in the SoCon this season.
QB Jerick McKinnon’s 24 points and four touchdowns scored at Old Dominion tied for the most scored by a player in the SoCon this season, while his four rushing touchdowns are the most in the SoCon.
TOP OF THE CHART
Georgia Southern ranks first all-time with 45 playoff wins and six National Championships. Georgia Southern also currently stands fourth all-time in most NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision playoff appearances.
Eleven members of the Georgia Southern football team are set to graduate Friday, including Brian Wilcher, Tyler Sumner, Zach Reckers, Russell DeMasi, Markus Farmer, John Stevenson, Blake DeBartola, A.J. McCray, Brent Russell, Darreion Robinson, Dion DuBose, Zach York and Brandon Lane. Of those 11 Sumner, DeMasi, Stevenson, DeBartola, McCray, Russell, Robinson, DuBose and York are likely on the travel roster and will forgo the graduation ceremony to play in Friday’s game.
Of QB Jerick McKinnon’s 1,649 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns this season, 1,056 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns have come in during the stretch run of the last six games, which featured three FCS Playoff teams in Appalachian State, Central Arkansas and Old Dominion and one FBS squad in Georgia. The junior has also rushed for 1,294 yards and 15 touchdowns since taking over the quarterback role against Western Carolina.
FOUR NAMED ALL-AMERICANS
Four members of the Georgia Southern Football team were named All-Americans, including Brent Russell, Dorian Byrd, Garrett Frye and Dion DuBose. Russell repeated as a Sports Network First Team selection, while Garrett Frye was a third team selection. Dorian Byrd and Dion DuBose were both named Third Team All-Americans by College Sports Madness.
McKINNON NEARING THE MILE MARKER
With 111 more yards, Jerick McKinnon will reach the one mile mark in rushing yards for the 2012 season. One mile is the same as 1,760 yards.
ONLY BACK-TO-BACK-TO-BACK FINAL FOUR
With Georgia Southern’s 2012 semifinal appearance, the Eagles made themselves the only team to reach the FCS Semifinals for three-straight years.
AFTER A SEMIFINAL RUN
The Eagles have reached the semifinals of the NCAA Division I Football Playoffs on 13 occasions. The following season, Georgia Southern has averaged 11.0 victories and 2.75 losses. In those seasons the Eagles have reached the playoffs 11 times and won five National Championships, reaching the semifinals or further in 10 seasons.
1,000 YARD RUSHERS
QB Jerick McKinnon and B-Back Dominique Swope both rushed for 1,000 yards this season, making it just the fifth time in school history and the first time since 2005 in which the Eagles have had two 1,000-yard rushers. McKinnon crossed the 1,000-yard plateau against Howard, while Swope reached 1,000 yards against Old Dominion.
BACK-TO-BACK 1000 FOR SWOPE
Sophomore B-Back Dominique Swope is the first Eagle since Jermaine Austin in 2002 and 2003 to run for 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons. Only one Eagle has ran for 1,000 yards in all four seasons, Adrian Peterson.
SIXTH IN ALL-TIME RUSHING
QB Jerick McKinnon enters Friday’s game against North Dakota State with 1,649 yards on the year. That total ranks as the fourth-best season for a rusher and the second-best total for a quarterback.
Georgia Southern has knocked on the door twice in the last two years, and each time was turned away.
This time Coach Jeff Monken and his team will be looking to kick the barrier standing between them and the elusive seventh FCS championship game off its hinges.
That will not be easy as the door standing in front of them is manned by defending national champion and top-seeded North Dakota State (12-1).
Georgia Southern (10-3) will meet the Bison (12-1) at 8 p.m. on Friday ,in a semifinal game at the Fargodome in Fargo, N.D. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN2.
The winner will advance to Frisco, Texas, to meet the winner of Saturday’s Sam Houston State (10-3) at Eastern Washington (12-1) game on Jan. 5, 2013, for the national championship.
This is the Eagles’ third straight trip the semifinals. Two years ago they lost at Delaware, 28,-10, and last year the Bison rolled to a 35-7 win, outscoring Georgia Southern, 21-0, in the second half while holding its powerful ground game to 189 yards.
It is also the school’s 399th game in the modern era, and its 13th trip to the semifinals in 19 playoff bids.
Georgia Southern is coming off a 602-yard rushing game in last Saturday’s 49-35 win at Old Dominion, and ran for 404 yards against Central Arkansas in its second round playoff game.
However, the Eagles, who are averaging a nation leading 409 yards per game can anticipate finding yards hard to come by against NDSU.
Coach Craig Bohl’s Bison are giving up only 78 yards per game, and Bohl is more familiar with the option than most coaches.
The 10th-year Bison coach was a defensive back at Nebraska under Coach Tom Osbourne, and coached at Nebraska for eight years, the last three as defensive coordinator, before taking the North Dakota State job.
Bohl, now 87-32, guided the Bison program from Division II, where it won eight national championships, to the FCS level.
“I’ve got a great deal of respect for that program, and that coach and the way he coaches his team,” Monken said. “They’re tough and physical.”
Going to the Fargodome, an indoor facility where the decibel level goes nearly off the chart when the opposition has the ball, last year gives the Eagles some insight as to what to expect and prepare for this year.
“I don’t know what helps you in that place,” Monken said. “It’s one of the best environments I’ve been in for a college football game. “It’s so loud and energetic. Their crowd does a great job.”
It will be strength against strength: Georgia Southern’s triple option offense against a North Dakota State team has given up only three rushing touchdowns this season.
The Eagles are the last team to score a rushing touchdown in a playoff game against the Bison. Dominique Swope scored on a 23-yard run in the second quarter last year, a span of 14 quarters.
In its lone loss this season, a 17-14 defeat at home against Indiana State, the Sycamores scored both of their touchdowns on interception returns.
The Bison reached the semis by beating Wofford, 14-7, last Saturday and the Terriers got their only touchdown on an interception return. Georgia Southern can draw some inspiration off Wofford’s performance.
Although the Terriers got beat, their option offense had 262 yards rushing, the most the Bison has given up this season, and Eric Breitenstein had 135 yards as he became to the first back to go over 100 yards against NDSU.
The Eagles have six backs who have rushed for more than 400 yards this season headed by quarterback Jerick McKinnon’s 1,646. Swope has 1,169.
Their combined total is 178 yards of the school record for teammates. Adrian Peterson (1,932) and Greg Hill (1,061) combined for 2,993 in 1998.
The final score of last year’s game was somewhat deceiving. The Eagles trailed 14-7 at the half as they had a fake field goal attempt from the three-yard line fail on the final play of the half.
Then Georgia Southern took the second half kickoff and drove to the four only to lose it on a fumble. The Bison drove 96 yards for a touchdown, and that broke the Eagles’ back.