By Terence Thomas
CSN The CAA Today Columnist
In an interview with Towson head coach, Rob Ambrose before the season, Ambrose stated how much he loves the fact that his team plays in the CAA, and that his five-year plan will have Towson competitive within the CAA. One can only speculate as to Towson’s record had it played in the Big South Conference in 2010. I could very well be writing about Towson this weekend instead of Coastal Carolina.
The playoff game between Western Illinois and Coastal Carolina was the first meeting between the two. WIU was a runner-up from the MVFC, and CCU was the surprise winner of the Big South. CCU tied Saturday's contest at 10-10 with a field goal with 4:38 remaining in the game. But WIU responded with a nine-play, 81-yard touchdown drive to regain the lead 17-10. With 1:50 remaining, CCU drove to the WIU 4 with 12 seconds remaining. WIU forced CCU’s 5th turnover with an interception to end the game. CCU won the statistical game, leading in first downs (26-14), total net yards (462-385) and even returned a interception for a touchdown. However, four interceptions and a lost fumble was too much for the Chanticleers to overcome. WIU will now play Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C.
It is hard to see WIU advancing past ASU, but should that happen and Villanova advances past Stephen F. Austin, then WIU and Nova would meet at a site to be determined. WIU would be the “Cinderella” story should it meet up with Nova. But the clock would strike midnight, and WIU would have ended a 2010 season better than they could have imagined.
Realistically, WIU doesn't have enough offense to get past ASU, thus there’s no need to consider a WIU vs. Nova matchup. ASU will not commit five turnovers. ASU will not lose at home to WIU. If Nova’s playing on Dec 11, it will be in Boone against ASU.
In Cedar Falls, Iowa, the Patriot League Champions, Lehigh Mountain Hawks defeated the Missouri Valley Conference Champion, Northern Iowa Panthers 14-7. UNI led 7-0 at halftime, but two third-quarter touchdown passes were enough for the Mountain Hawks to advance to the next round to face the Delaware Blue Hens.
Lehigh came into this game averaging 24.5 points per game and allowing 18.1 points per game. In Patriot League games only, LU was first in scoring offense (29.2 ppg) and first in scoring defense (13 ppg). LU had an average of 342.1 yards per game and allowed 343.9 ypg in 2010. In the PL, LU was third in total offense (390.7) and second in total defense (284.3). In Saturday’s game, LU had 336 total net yards and only allowed UNI to register 251 total net yards.
Lehigh was 0-2 vs. the CAA this season (the only two losses the Mountain Hawks had), losing to Villanova on Sept. 11 in Bethlehem, Pa.,35-0, in front of 8,168 fans, and again on Sept. 25, on the road at New Hampshire,31-10, before a crowd of 8,144. Saturday’s crowd in Cedar Falls was a reported 5,990. On Saturday, the Mountain Hawks will travel to Newark, Del., to face CAA co-champion Delaware, which will have a much larger crowd. Delaware was ranked first in the CAA in scoring offense (28.5 ppg), first in scoring defense (11.6 ppg), second in total offense (405.5 ypg), first in total defense (267.8 ypg). Statistics don’t win games, but they do tell the stories of what has transpired. Having seen Lehigh and Delaware play Villanova, Delaware is bigger, faster and stronger than Lehigh. Delaware will put up scores much like Nova and UNH before them as the Mountain Hawks will run out of gas against the more talented Blue Hens quite possibly as early as mid-second quarter.
In Statesboro, Ga., the Georgia Southern Eagles defeated the South Carolina State Bulldogs 41-16. Georgia Southern advances to play William & Mary in Williamsburg on Saturday. The Eagles dominated in all phases of play. Primarily running off tackle, the Eagles amassed 323 yards rushing and had a total of 344 yards. The Eagles only attempted five passes and were 2-for-5 for 21 yards. The Eagles scored two safeties off of fumbles by the SCSU kickoff return team.
Unfortunately for the Eagles, when they travel to Williamsburg, they will not be facing the MEAC runner- ups. The Tribe finished third in the CAA in rush defense (121.9 ypg), fourth in total defense (309.8 ygp), and third in scoring defense (15.4 ppg). If the Eagles hope to find success against the Tribe, they will have to employ something other than running the ball off tackle. On offense, the Tribe is blessed to have more than one quarterback capable of starting, as well as several good runningbacks that would start in other programs. The Tribe’s offensive line is big, physical and nasty. I noticed early in the third quarter of Saturday’s game that some of the Eagles defensive line players appeared to be bent over needing some rest. The Eagles should enjoy Saturday's win as their road games in the playoffs will begin and end in Williamsburg.
In the Fargo Dome, the North Dakota State Bison defeated the visiting Robert Morris Colonials 43-17. With 12:05 remaining in the game, the Colonials connected on a 46-yard field goal try to narrow the score to 20-17. From that point on, it was all NDSU. Before the selection of playoff teams, a potential bracket was given out that did not include NDSU. Jacksonville of the PFL was listed instead of NDSU. I replied back that given the NCAA’s history of leaving teams from the PFL out with similar records of Jacksonville, it was in this writer’s opinion that NDSU would make the playoff field. Well as we all know, NDSU was selected, and drew a crowd in excess of 12k for its first-round home game and put on a pretty entertaining performance.
The Bison advances to play Montana State Saturday in Bozeman, Mont. Playing against the Colonials, the Bison appeared limited at times offensively, and unable to stop the run defensively. The Bobcats will be a bigger threat offensively, and play disciplined defense a little better than the Colonials. Three of the Bison’s four losses came on the road in 2010, although, the Bison did open the season with an FBS win on the road at Kansas 6-3. The Bison were 2-3 in road games. Should the fates smile on the Bison, the first CAA team they could possibly meet would be Villanova in the semifinals. Again, this would be another “Cinderella” story that this writer has a hard time envisioning. We can revisit this if the Bison can survive the Bobcats.
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This is the CAA TODAY signing off.