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FCS Marches into an 'East vs. West' Division I Final Four
Two seeded and two unseeded teams were ejected from the NCAA Division I Football Championship tournament but #1 North Dakota State, #3 Eastern Washington and #7 Towson join unseeded New Hampshire in an ‘East vs. West’ Final Four.
Reigning champ NDSU of the Missouri Valley and EWU of the Big Sky will host their Atlantic coast opponents UNH and Towson of the Colonial for the right to play for the highest NCAA football championship on January 4, 2014 in Texas.
Eastern Washington 35, Jacksonville State 24
Vernon Adams was still kicking himself over throwing two momentum-killing interceptions when he got a glimpse how easily things could have been worse.
It happened early in the fourth quarter of Eastern Washington’s 35-24 Football Championship Subdivision quarterfinal victory over Jacksonville State, when his teammate Albert Havili returned an interception 77 yards for the clinching touchdown.
“It’s looking like they’re driving down to take the lead,” said Adams, the Eagles’ Payton Award finalist, “and just like that Albert knocks the wind out of them. He makes that pick and we’re going crazy on the sidelines.”
The freshman linebacker’s big play backed a 190-yard rushing day by Quincy Forte and gave the third-seeded Eagles one more home game this Saturday against seventh-seeded Towson in the FCS semifinals. The winner earns a trip to Frisco, Texas, for the national championship game on Jan. 4.
Jacksonville State (11-4) had made things hard on the Eagles in the first half behind the running and passing of Eli Jenkins, but lost the freshman quarterback to a knee injury shortly before halftime. Backup Max Shortell passed for 173 yards in the second half, but threw two interceptions and the Gamecocks managed just a field goal the rest of the way. They also lost rushing leader DaMarcus James to a thigh bruise early in the third quarter.
Jenkins rushed for 118 yards and completed 12 of 14 passes before his exit, including a 10-yard touchdown to Anthony Johnson as Jacksonville State built a 21-14 lead in the second quarter.
Before Jenkins’ injury, Adams marched the Eagles 77 yards for the tying score, connecting with Ashton Clark on a 41-yard touchdown. Forte then crashed in from 7 yards out for the second of his two touchdowns on the first possession of the third quarter, giving the Eagles the lead for good.
That was also the last damage done by Eastern Washington’s powerful offense, which rolled up 545 yards but hurt itself with three turnovers, including a fumble and an interception in the end zone.
“When you’re facing one of the best eight teams in the country, games are going to have that choppy feel and they’re not always going to be perfect,” said Eastern Washington coach Beau Baldwin. “You just have to find ways to win and our guys have been great at that.”
North Dakota State 48, Coastal Carolina 14
North Dakota State is losing its head coach, but hasn’t lost its dominance.
Less than one week after Craig Bohl said he was leaving the Bison to coach Wyoming, top-seeded NDSU crushed No. 11 Coastal Carolina 48-14 in a quarterfinal game.
Sam Ojuri rushed for 162 yards and two touchdowns and Brock Jensen completed 14 of 21 passes for 187 yards and two TDs as the two-time defending national champion Bison won their 22nd straight game. Jensen also ran for two TDs. The Bison host New Hampshire in the semifinals Friday.
Jensen said Bohl’s decision to leave NDSU didn’t affect the Bison.
“We have a focused group of guys who are trying to accomplish greatness,” he said. “The world would have to end to affect this team’s focus.”
Bohl accepted the Wyoming job after 11 years and more than 100 victories at NDSU. He’s said he expects most of his assistant coaches to follow him to Laramie. NDSU players and administration agreed to have Bohl and his staff coach the Bison until season’s end.
The Bison (13-0) outgained the Chanticleers 624-281. Coastal Carolina (12-3) entered the game averaging 43 points and 491 yards of offense.
New Hampshire 20, Southeastern Louisiana 17
New Hampshire coach Sean McDonnell knew quarterback Sean Goldrich had the athleticism to win a game with his feet.
Goldrich picked a fine time to prove his coach right.
Goldrich ran for a career-high 99 yards and three touchdowns, the last from 2 yards out with 47 seconds left, and UNH defeated Southeastern Louisiana 20-17 in the quarterfinals.
“I got to clear something up for everybody. This kid can run,” McDonnell said of his quarterback, who’d rushed for only three TDs all season before doubling his total on a wet, windy night in south Louisiana. “He’s something special as an athlete. You just don’t get to see it.”
The victory put New Hampshire (10-4) into the national semifinals for the first time. The Wildcats will play at two-time defending national champion North Dakota State on Friday.
Bryan Bennett was 25 of 46 for 269 yards and a touchdown for Southeastern (11-3), which saw its school-record 10-game winning streak snapped. The junior transfer from Oregon also ran for a 2-yard score. His touchdown pass to Marquis Fruge, which came after he escaped the grasps of two defenders on fourth-and-goal from the 5, gave the Lions a 17-14 lead with 5:17 left.
UNH had more total yards (479-344), possessed the ball for 31:49, and its defense found a way to slow a Southeastern team averaging 40 points a game. But the Lions blocked two field goals and stalled another drive with Marice Sutton’s interception in the end zone to stay within one score the whole way.
Towson 49, Eastern Illinois 39 (Friday)
After he walked off the snow-covered field at Eastern Illinois Friday night, Towson running back Terrance West said he was pretty sure he’d never played a game quite like this one.
Snow, sleet, rain and 30-degree temperatures. And he had no idea just how well he’d handled it.
West ran for 356 yards and five touchdowns on 39 carries, leading the Tigers (12-2) to a 49-39 win over the Panthers (12-2) and a spot in the Football Championship Subdivision semifinals.
Along the way he set a new FCS playoff record for rushing yards, something he had no idea he’d done until he was asked about it after the game.
“I did?” he asked in disbelief, explaining nonetheless that he pictured himself having a big night. “If you picture big plays, you make big plays. So I was picturing.”
The Towson defense had found a way to quiet Eastern Illinois’ passing attack, keying on wide receiver Erik Lora and limiting him to short dinks and dunks from quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
By Billings Gazette