Georgia Southern 49, Old Dominion 35
NORFOLK, Va. – Dominique Swope scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 12-yard run with 2:36 left in the game, and J.J. Wilcox intercepted a Taylor Heinicke pass on the next play from scrimmage to lift Georgia Southern to a 49-35 comeback victory in the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Division I Football Championship on Saturday afternoon at Ballard Stadium.
Wilcox jumped a route and picked off the pass at the Old Dominion 35-yard line, taking it away from Monarch receiver Kirk Spellman. The Eagles milked the clock and moved down to the 1-yard line, where Jerick McKinnon punched it in for a touchdown with 46 seconds left for the final margin. It was the fourth straight touchdown for the Eagles, who outscored ODU 28-0 in the fourth quarter, and a career-high fourth of the game for McKinnon.
Georgia Southern (10-3) moves on to the semifinals for the third consecutive season, where they will take on defending national champion North Dakota State. Old Dominion sees its season come to an end with an 11-2 record.
The game featured three lead changes, three ties and 1,166 yards of total offense combined between the two teams, and the Eagles had to overcome a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit. GSU collected 632 yards of offense, rumbling for 602 on the ground.
Swope had 22 carries for 186 yards and two touchdowns, and McKinnon finished the day with 171 yards on 29 carries. Darreion Robinson rushed four times for 76 yards, and Johnathan Bryant rushed six times for 71 yards.
Heinicke completed 31-of-44 passes for 421 yards and three touchdowns and had eight carries for 48 yards. Nick Mayers caught 10 passes for 150 yards and two scores, and Antonio Vaughn caught six passes for 146 yards and a touchdown. Larry Pinkard finished with seven receptions for 83 yards.
In a game that figured to be high scoring in which each team had to hold serve, the Eagles had all the momentum in the second quarter after getting a pair of defensive stops, but two missed field goals and untimely penalties turned the tide for the Monarchs and aided ODU in scoring three straight touchdowns to turn a seven-point deficit into a 28-14 lead.
The Eagles traded touchdowns with the Monarchs from that point, cutting the lead to one score on two occasions, and then finally got the turnover they needed.
After GSU trimmed the margin to 35-28 early in the fourth quarter, the Monarchs drove deep into Eagle territory where they faced 3rd-and-6. Defensive end Dion DuBose got pressure on Heinicke and stripped the ball, and Patrick Flowe recovered the fumble to give the ball back to the Eagles at their own 13-yard line. It was the first turnover of the contest.
The Eagles cashed in on the turnover when McKinnon scored on a 2-yard run with 5:32 left in the contest, and Alex Hanks tied the game 35-35 with the point after. McKinnon converted a fourth-and-1 from his own 30-yard line early in the drive and put the Eagles in ODU territory with a 29-yard carry. William Banks also logged 36 yards on the ground to key the game-tying drive.
The Georgia Southern defense got the ball back at the ODU 39-yard line when the Monarchs tried to go for it on fourth-and-6. John Stevenson made up for a penalty earlier in the drive by breaking up a Heinicke pass on that play and forced the fourth-down try by pressuring Heinicke on third down, causing him to dump it off to Tyree Lee for no gain.
The Eagles took the lead three plays later on the 12-yard run by Swope, and Hanks was good again on the extra point to make the score 42-35 with 2:36 left in the game. McKinnon gained 27 yards on the ground on the first two plays of the drive.
The Eagles used their first defensive stop of the game to take a 14-7 lead on a 5-yard run by Swope 2:11 into the second quarter and got the second stop when Darius Eubanks broke up a pass on third-and-10. Following the punt, Robinson took a pitch around left end for a 50-yard gain to move into ODU territory. A block in the back penalty put the Eagles behind the chains and ultimately stalled the drive, and Hanks’ 42-yard field goal try missed left.
Old Dominion shifted the momentum immediately as Heinicke went up top to Vaughn for a 74-yard touchdown pass on the next play, tying the score 14-14 midway through the period.
After the Monarch defense got a three-and-out, Heinicke threw to Mayers for a 43-yard gain and hit the senior for a 7-yard touchdown pass four plays later to put ODU ahead 21-14 with 3:32 left in the first half.
McKinnon picked up 35 yards on a quarterback keeper to move the Eagles down the field on their final possession of the half, and Robinson hit McKinnon for 15 yards on a quarterback throwback to convert a third-and-6 with 1:34 left. After they picked up another first down, the Eagles took two shots into the end zone but had to settle for a 30-yard field goal try by Luke Cherry. The kick sailed wide left as time expired, and ODU went into the locker room with a 21-14 advantage.
The Eagles used a heavy dose of Swope to drive down to the ODU 22-yard line on their opening possession of the second half, but a false start penalty on second down put GSU behind the chains again. Facing fourth-and-6, McKinnon’s pass to Tyler Sumner was broken up by Andre Simmons, turning the ball over to Old Dominion.
Heinicke hit Mayers with a screen pass for a 39-yard pickup to key an 82-yard touchdown scoring drive. Colby Goodwyn scored on a 6-yard run, giving Old Dominion a commanding 28-14 lead early in the third quarter.
GSU got some good fortune on their next drive when Tray Butler recovered a Devin Scott fumble in the end zone, cutting the margin to 28-21. Scott took the pitch around the right side and looked like he might score, but the ball was jarred loose by Simmons and rolled into the end zone, where Butler fought off a few Monarchs for the recovery.
Mayers caught three passes for 26 yards on ODU’s next drive and found the end zone on an 8-yard reception from Heinicke that pushed the lead to 35-21 with 2:53 left in the third quarter.
The Eagles came right back down the field, and McKinnon’s 4-yard touchdown run trimmed the margin back to seven points early in the fourth quarter. A 23-yard run by McKinnon and a 36-yard rush by Butler keyed the drive.
The Monarchs scored a touchdown on their opening drive of the game as Heinicke ran it in from 2 yards out. The sophomore quarterback keyed the drive by eluding tacklers behind the line of scrimmage and scrambling for a 23-yard gain down to the GSU 19-yard line on fourth-and-13.
McKinnon tied the game on a 1-yard sneak with 5:04 left in the first quarter. He connected with Robinson for a 15-yard pass on third-and-13 to keep the drive alive, while Swope rushed five times for 40 yards, and Bryant logged two carries for 28 markers.
The Eagles got a big stop on 4th-and-1 from their own 16-yard line on ODU’s next possession. The Monarchs ran a read option but Brent Russell filled the hole, and Terico Agnew put a big hit on Heinicke to force a fumble. Lee recovered the fumble for ODU but was stopped for 3-yard loss.
A 31-yard run by Bryant and a 21-yard by Swope keyed an 81-yard drive for GSU on the Eagles’ ensuing possession. Swope punched it in from the 5-yard line, and Georgia Southern took a 14-7 lead, its first of the game, 2:11 into the second quarter.
North Dakota State 14, Wofford 7
FARGO, N.D. – The Wofford football team’s season came to an end with a 14-7 loss to North Dakota State on Saturday afternoon in the Fargodome. The Terriers outgained NDSU in total offense but were limited to a defensive touchdown in the NCAA FCS quarterfinals. The Bison will advance to host Georgia Southern in the semifinals.
The Terriers finish 9-4 on the season. Defending national champion North Dakota State is 12-1 and ranked first in the nation. For Wofford, Eric Breitenstein ended his stellar career with 135 yards on 24 carries. The Bison were led by Brock Jensen with 60 rushing yards and 13-of-18 passing for 95 yards and a touchdown.
The Bison had the ball to open the game and drove down the field with five first downs. The drive was capped by a 1-yard touchdown run by Sam Ojuri to give NDSU a 7-0 lead with 9:37 on the clock in the first quarter.
On the first drive for the Terriers, Donovan Johnson picked up a first down with a 27-yard run. Brian Kass was reaching for the first down when he had the ball stripped and Cole Jirik recovered the ball for NDSU. The Bison went three-and-out and punted after a sack by Alvin Scioneaux. Wofford gained one first down before punting back to NDSU.
Starting on the 1-yard line after the punt, the Bison gained a first down, but then Blake Wylie intercepted Brock Jensen and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown. The score was tied at 7-7 at 14:06 in the second quarter. On the next drive, NDSU gained one rushing first down before punting back to the Terriers.
Wofford was only able to gain one first down before two false start penalties forced a punt. The Bison started at the 3-yard line. After one first down, Brock Jensen ran 39 yards for a first down and two pass interference calls moved the Bison inside the 20-yard line. A 16-yard touchdown pass from Jensen to Zach Vraa gave NDSU a 14-7 lead with 1:02 left in the first half. With the ball back, the Terriers gained one first down before the end of the half.
To open the second half, Wofford picked up two first downs. Travis Beck forced a Kass fumble that was recovered by Andre Martin. The Bison gained only one first down before punting the ball back to the Terriers. Wofford went three-and-out and punted. The Bison were driving when James Zotto forced a fumble that was recovered by Stephon Shelton with 2:45 left in the third quarter.
Breitenstein ran 39 yards for a first down to cross midfield. On fourth-and-8, James Lawson completed a pass to Breitenstein for the first down. Then, on fourth-and-3, Brad Nocek took the pitch for a first down. The Terriers attempted a 26-yard field goal, but it was partially blocked and the Bison took over at the 20-yard line with 11:44 left in the game. NDSU gained a first down before punting back to Wofford.
The Terriers opened the drive with a 24-yard pass from Lawson to Jeff Ashley. Wofford drove inside the 20-yard line, but on fourth-and-3 from the 7, only gained one yard and turned it over on downs with 3:24 remaining on the clock. The Bison picked up one first down but punted back to Wofford with only 49 seconds remaining. The Terriers ran out of time with the ball across midfield.
Wofford had 326 total yards, with 262 on the ground. NDSU had 262 total yards, 167 of which were rushing. NDSU had a 17-14 advantage in first downs. Wofford was 5-of-13 on third downs and 3-of-4 on fourth down. NDSU was 3-of-9 on third down. Wofford had six penalties to only one for NDSU. Wofford had a 30:20 to 29:40 time of possession advantage.