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SoCon Notebook: Both remaining SoCon teams on a long road

FCS Quarterfinals
Sam Houston State     at
(3) Montana State    8 p.m.

Illinois State    at
(2) Eastern Washington    6 p.m.
(5) Georgia Southern    at
(4) Old Dominion    Noon

Wofford        at
(1) North Dakota State    2 p.m.

    You could say that Wofford coach Mike Ayers is used to the runaround.
    The Football Championship Subdivision playoffs have sent to Terriers to Delaware (2003), Montana (2007), James Madison (2008), Jacksonville State (2010) and Northern Iowa (2011).
    In 2002, the 9-3 Terriers, which beat Georgia Southern and Furman, didn’t even make the playoffs.
    This year, co-Southern Conference champion Wofford has to go on the road to face No. 1 seed North Dakota State, in Fargo, N.D., in the quarterfinals.
    Ayers just laughed it off.
    “We’re used to it,” he said. “Most of the time it doesn’t matter what our record is. It seems like they want to take us halfway across the country. We’ve had to travel all the way to Montana, and it’s really no big deal for us. We’re just glad to be still playing. I think if you ask any of the other seven coaches from the seven teams that are still left, they’re happy to still be playing.”
    North Dakota State (11-1), the defending national champion, saw a similar offense to Wofford’s when it beat Georgia Southern in the 2011 semifinals.
    Still, Ayers said Wofford’s goal is the same as everyone among the final eight — win three more games.
“We just happen to be facing the best team in the country to try to make that happen,” said the Wofford coach. “We know what’s in store. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s also not impossible.”
    The Bison host the Terriers Saturday at 3 p.m.

Scout it out
    Wofford and Georgia Southern have at least one thing in common — the option.
    Ayers said he decided to use the run-based scheme to make it harder for more talented schools to prepare when the Terriers moved to Division I to replace former SoCon program Marshall.
    “If you do what everybody else is doing, than from midseason on, you’re going against defenses that have been coached up to stop your offense for five weeks in a row,” Ayers said. “There’s no advantage there.”
    No. 5 seed Georgia Southern (9-3) may be tough to prepare for, but that doesn’t mean that No. 4 Old Dominion (11-1) isn’t.
    It’s hard to prepare for a quarterback who is 209 yards away from breaking the FCS record for passing yards in a season, set in 1994 by Alcorn State’s Steve McNair.
    Sophomore ODU quarterback Taylor Heinicke has passed for 4,655 yards and 41 touchdowns this season.
    “We don’t have anybody that can become Taylor Heinicke in a week,” GSU coach Jeff Monken said. “I don’t know if there’s any scout team that can simulate anybody’s offense. We hold cards up for the scout team players. I don’t know how well we can simulate anything anybody does. …     Certainly not here, or anyplace I’ve ever been, does the number one offense practice against the number one defense in preparation for a Saturday game.”
    Ideally, the Eagles would like to use their running game to keep the clock moving and extend drives to keep the ball out of Heinicke’s hands.
    That’s the plan, anyway.
    “We played Georgia in the last (regular-season) game of the year,” Monken said. “They’ve got a pretty good player at quarterback, and we would have liked to keep it away from him a lot longer. They were able to stop us and get us off the field. It’s certainly the intention. Whether we’ll be able to do it or not, we’ll see.”
    The Eagles face Old Dominion Saturday at noon in Norfolk, Va. The game will be televised on ESPN.

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