We have championship football in Division II and Division III this weekend but let’s not forget that we also have the FCS Semifinal matchups to watch! In what will be a jam packed and exciting weekend of small school football these FCS matchups are sure to be fun to watch.
Sam Houston State v. Montana
Sam Houston State Offense
After dominating Montana’s arch rival Montana State last weekend the Bearkats will looks to duplicate that effort this weekend v. Montana. As it has been all season that effort will be centered around the Bearkats ability to establish their running game. Last week v. the Bobcats SHSU ran for 428 yards and four TD’s They were led by No. 2 back Richard Sincere who went for a buck sixty by himself. Leading rusher Tim Flanders was actually held to only 38 yards himself and no back carried the ball more than 11 times. I would expect Sam Houston to try and get Flanders a little more established v. Montana. It’s not by luck or mistake that Flanders has run for over 1,200 yards and scored 21 TD’s on the season.
Anytime as a defense you can claim that you held QB Tirrell Rennie to under 150 total yards you need to congratulate your defense and recognize just what kind of an accomplishment that is. This defense was flying all over the field last Friday night and was led by DB Caleb McSurdy who led the team in tackles with 10 including two TFL and a sack. His ability to make plays in the run game will be key when it comes to deal with Flanders and Sincere and this SHSU rushing attack. LB John Kanongata’a will also need to come up big and be very aggressive in filling gaps and getting into the backfield. The way to beat this rushing attack is to get aggressive against it.
Very similar to Sam Houston State the Grizzly are going to look to try and establish their ground attack and they can use one of a number of backs to do that with. They have four ball carriers (including QB Jordan Johnson) who have gone over 425 rushing yards on the season. Their main back Peter Nguyen is coming off of a game where he had 57 rushing yards on only seven carries and scored once. The leading rusher in last week’s game was actually QB Jordan Johnson who looked incredibly comfortable in a bounce back game after having a below average performance v. Central Arkansas the week before. Johnson ran for 86 yards and a score, while throwing for 196 yards and three more scores. If Johnson can for the SHSU to account for his ability to deliver the ball down the field than Montana will have a good chance to take this game.
Sam Houston State Defense
I questioned just how good this Sam Houston defense was last week despite being ranked as either the best or second best defensive team in every major statistical category. Well they answered that criticism by holding a very good Montana State to only 13 points and 349 total yards. More importantly is that they only allowed 77 rushing yards which given Montana’s propensity to run is a big deal. In fact SHSU is only an average of 67.38 ypg on the ground. They do this mostly through team defense without many individual players standing out. A good example of this is that SHSU made nine tackles for loss last week but only one player had more a tackle and a half for loss.
I think Montana is on a mission to prove to themselves and to the entire country that last year’s struggles were simply a one year set back and that they are going to make their way back to the national stage and that means a trip to Frisco.
Georgia Southern v. North Dakota State
Georgia Southern Offense
Southern has actually thrown the ball a lot more this post-season than anyone would of have expected. Through two playoff games QB Jaybo Shaw is 14 of 19 for 246 yards and two TD’s. This increased proficiency in the passing game has made the Southern offense just that much more dangerous. In the first week It was Dominique Swope who had a big day going over 100 yards rushing while this past weekend it was J.J Wilcox who did the most damage running for 99 yards on eight carries. Swope added another 81 yards on 23 carries, while star RB Robert Brown only had two carries on the day. Brown has been pretty quiet this postseason and it’s led to us wondering about his health.
North Dakota State Defense
In what was a complete and utter domination of a very good Lehigh team, the Bisons dismantled them to the tune of 24-0. Without Ryan Spadola to help out the high powered Lehigh offense Chris Lum had to force some balls down the field and those ended up getting picked. On the whole NDSU picked off three passes and only allowed 68 yards rushing. This was similar to what happened v. JMU the week prior when they were held to only 84 rushing yards and in that game the NDSU front seven got eight TFL and four sacks. North Dakota State will look to duplicate those results and force the Eagles to throw even more. With four INT’s in the past two games you have to think that these NDSU DB’s are licking their chops at the idea of playing against a triple option QB who may be forced to throw.
North Dakota State Offense
In the first playoff games for the Bisons it was DJ McNorton who went off for over 150 yards but then last week in the quarterfinals it was Sam Ojuri who goes off for 136 yards. McNorton didn’t have a bad day with 52 yards on 11 carries but it’s very interesting how much these backs switch out during the game. Make no mistake about it though if one of these guys starts to hear up then the Bison staff will ride the hot hand. I would expect QB Brock Jensen to be asked to do just a little bit more this weekend. Run defense is a strong skill set for the Eagles front who can be susceptible down the field against good WR’s. Jensen and Warren Holloway could be in for a big day against this Eagles secondary.
Georgia Southern Defense
The Eagles defense has been uncharacteristically full of holes early this postseason allowing an average of 35.5 points per game which is over 17 more points than their season average is. Part of the issue is that the defense hasn’t been able to generate enough pressure up front to force bad throws and mistakes. Through two games Georgia Southern has three sacks with two coming from stud DT Brent Russell. The good thing about this is that North Dakota State is a run heavy team who will look to establish their running backs which plays into Southern’s defensive strength. Georgia Southern is only allowing 137.15 yards per game on the ground and they will hope to stay at that low numbers this weekend v. McNorton and Ojuri.
I think the Bisons are the better team on paper but I can’t pick against the Eagles and their pedigree in situations like this. They made it to this point last year after being an at large bid and I expect to finish the job this time around and make it to Frisco.
For all his FCS, DII and DIII reporting, be sure to follow Matt on Twitter @MatthewCElder.
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