Georgia Southern returning to FCS semifinals
Statesboro, GA (Sports Network) - Georgia Southern's triple option proved to be to difficult for Maine in the Eagles' 35-23 victory in the FCS quarterfinals Saturday.
The third-seeded Eagles (11-2) reached the semifinals for the second consecutive season and will face second-seeded North Dakota State in Fargo next weekend. Maine (9-4) is still looking for its first-ever semifinal appearance.
Georgia Southern dominated the time of possession, 44:42 to 14:58, and the offense churned up 476 total yards, including 360 on the ground.
Quarterback Jaybo Shaw led the Eagles with a pair of touchdown runs. He also completed 7-of-8 passes for 116 yards and a touchdown.
J.J. Wilcox rushed for 99 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries.
Maine's offense, which spent much of the game on the sidelines, committed three turnovers and went a combined 2 of 8 on third- and fourth-down conversions.
An offensive system Maine hadn't faced in years, the triple option was on display early and often, battering the Black Bears defense with several long touchdown drives.
Shaw capped the game's opening drive, a seven-play, 60-yard march, with a short TD plunge at 11:40 of the first quarter.
Georgia Southern improved its first-quarter lead to 14-0 on a Wilcox two-yard run after taking advantage of a diving interception by Jerrick McKinnon, which thwarted a potential big play by Maine.
Maine responded to the touchdown when Roosevelt Boone took the ensuing kick off back for 91 yards and a touchdown, his first of the season.
Georgia Southern then responded with another long drive, but it was stopped on fourth down by the Maine defense. After the stop, Maine drove deep into Eagles territory and converted on a 21-yard field goal by Brian Harvey.
Following Maine's field goal, Georgia Southern conducted a nine-play, 67-yard drive, resulting in another touchdown run of seven yards by Wilcox.
Georgia Southern led at halftime, 21-10.
Maine scored on its opening drive of the second half, connecting with tight end Justin Perillo for a 12-yard touchdown at the 11:59 mark.
However, Georgia Southern's offense stayed on a roll, putting together another touchdown drive. This time, getting another short touchdown plunge from Shaw to make it 28-17 Eagles with 8:42 left in the third quarter.
Following another interception by the Eagles defense, Shaw connected with Kentrellis Showers for a 25-yard touchdown against a tired Black Bears' defense.
Maine responded with its own passing touchdown, as Warren Smith connected with back-up quarterback John Ebeling for a three-yard score. Maine attempted a fake on the extra point, but couldn't get the two-point conversion.
However, that would be final scoring play as neither team found the end zone in the fourth quarter.
Smith was 15-for-29 for 229 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions.
Nose tackle Brent Russell's six tackles, including 1.5 for loss, led Georgia Southern's defense.
12/10 19:50:51 ET