Three Southern Conference teams and five from the Colonial Athletic Association were in the field of 20 at the start of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.
Only one team from each of the FCS’s power conferences — seven of the past eight champions have come from either the SoCon or CAA — advanced to today’s quarterfinal round. They will meet today in Statesboro, Ga., when Georgia Southern (10-2) hosts Maine (9-3).
“We really don’t like to pay attention to what other SoCon teams are trying to do,” said GSU kicker Adrian Mora, who’s from Dalton. “It’s good when there’s a lot of teams left, but us being the only team, it’s a pretty exciting time and we’re just trying to make the most of it.”
The third-seeded Eagles survived a scare last week against the CAA’s Old Dominion, winning a shootout 55-48. Georgia Southern coach Jeff Monken described the game as “awfully gut-wrenching. Gosh, we just couldn’t stop them.”
Monken’s Eagles are in the quarters of the playoffs for the second time in his two seasons as head coach. A year ago, the rookie coach led GSU all the way to the semifinals. The Eagles will return there with a win today.
The semifinal run last season was a surprise after GSU barely made the playoffs. After being ranked No. 1 for most of this season, Georgia Southern isn’t surprising anyone in 2011.
“Last year was kind of something unexpected, which made it a lot more fun,” Mora said. “But this year, we enjoy it just the same.”
Georgia Southern was expected by many to be hosting Appalachian State today, but the Mountaineers were stunned at home by Maine, 34-12, last week.
“I know how difficult it is to go in there and win,” Monken said. “For them to do what they did against App State really says a lot about their football team.”
The SoCon’s third team in the field, Wofford, fell last week at fifth-seeded Northern Iowa, 28-21.
Mora had never missed an extra point in his career before last week. He had set an NCAA record with 151 in a row — a streak that began in the third game of his freshman season and ended with a blocked kick in the third quarter. He went on to miss another extra point later in the game.
“Things happen and we can’t let what happened in the last game affect us in this game,” said Mora, who has made 151 of 153 extra-point attempts in his career and 57 of 68 field-goal attempts.
Mora said he’d “rather kick about seven extra points per game than make one long field goal.” Touchdowns may not come easy against a solid Maine defense that is allowing just 22.9 points per game.
The Eagles’ option offense is third in the FCS in scoring with 37.5 points per game, but Maine hasn’t played an option team all season, so GSU has no idea what the Black Bears will do defensively against it.
“If you don’t have film of them playing against it ...,” he said, “we kind of have to just take a guess and hope that we’re going to be right on some it.”
The winner of today’s game will face No. 2 North Dakota State or Lehigh next weekend.
John Frierson is in his fifth year at the Times Free Press and fifth year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...