By Myron Hosea
CSN So South Columnist
College Sporting News
Two years ago, in Monken’s first season, the Eagles came out of nowhere with a great run at the end of the season. They lost at Delaware in the semis. Last season, Georgia Southern didn’t surprise anyone, but it couldn’t get past North Dakota State in Fargo, again in the semis.
Now, they have another shot.
Last Saturday, Georgia Southern took advantage of its second-half opportunities to rally for a 49-28 win at Old Dominion. Wofford, meanwhile, couldn’t do the same at top-seed North Dakota State, however, and lost 14-7. That prevented a SoCon-themed showdown in the semis and instead set up a rematch of last year’s semifinal game at Fargo when the Bison dominated the Eagles 35-7.
The Eagles are well aware of the task in front of them to win at North Dakota State.
On the weekly SoCon coaches’ teleconference, Georgia Southern coach Jeff Monken said of the Bison, “They are really tough to score on. They’re tough, big, physical, well-coached.
“I think they do a great, great job. I think they are one of the best football teams in the country at any level. We’re going to have to play a tough, physical football team to hang in there with them.”
Monken hopes having played in Fargo, in the dome, last year will be some kind of advantage this year.
“It’s a terrific atmosphere to play a game,” he said. “At least our veteran guys have experienced it, and hopefully they won’t be in shock the first time the roof starts blowing off the top of the place.”
The game, of course, will be a match of the best rushing attack in FCS against the best rushing defense. Georgia Southern averages 393 yards a game on the ground and burned Old Dominion for 602 yards. The Bison allow just 63 yards a game.
The Eagles will need to make some big plays like they did in their 28-point fourth quarter at Old Dominion last Saturday. A year ago, Georgia Southern didn’t finish drives, failing to score on four trips inside the North Dakota State 30 yard line.
Quarterback Jerick McKinnon (1,649 yards and 19 touchdowns rushing) averages 6.9 yards a carry while running back Dominique Swope (1,169 and 16) averages 6.2. They will have to have big games as they did against the Monarchs when they rushed for 357 yards and six touchdowns.
Georgia Southern will have to play better rush defense than they did in last season’s semifinal. The Bison outrushed the Eagles 314 to 186 as one player ran for 100 yards and two others tallied 94 yards apiece. North Dakota State finished strong with 21 points over the last 21 minutes.
TERRIERS END SEASON
Wofford’s loss at North Dakota State brought to an end the stellar career of All-American running back Eric Breitenstein. He leaves Wofford as the school’s all-time leading rusher, and his 135 yards against the Bison gave him a 2,035-yard senior season. Breitenstein and his fellow seniors posted wins, conference titles, playoff games, various records, and lots of memories.
The 2013 Wofford team will have several key spots to fill. The Terriers have retooled before, though this time could be a little different. Even though the offensive and defensive systems are sure to remain the same, the offense in particular will look different as the Terriers will lean on three quarterbacks with experience and on running back Donovan Johnson leading a solid group of young runners.