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2012 FCS Playoffs: Eagles make return trip to semifinals

Behind a 28 point 4th quarter outburst, Georgia Southern advances to the Semifinals for the third consecutive year.

Scott Cunningham

Everyone knew coming into this game that these two teams are polar opposites of each other and well the game certainly lived up to that billing. Georgia Southern rushed for 602 yards while passing for a modest 30 yards. Meanwhile, Old Dominion passed for 421 yards while rushing for 113. This was a rematch of last year's exciting 55-48 second-round contest that ended with the men from Statesboro coming out on top.

When the Monarchs drove down the field for a touchdown late in the third quarter to give ODU a 35-21 lead. the home crowd was rockin' and were confident they were going to advance to the Semifinals for the first time in school history. However, the Georgia Southern defense brought out the hammer in the fourth quarter. While, the Eagles offense did what their accustomed to doing, their counterparts on defense forced two turnovers and came through with a clutch 4th down stop. Eagles quarterback Jerick McKinnon led his team to touchdowns on all four possesions in the final quarter, while the vaunted Taylor Heinicke led his team to zero points.

Despite the horrid fourth quarter performance, the sophomore quarterback from ODU had a career day. Heinicke set records in both passing yards and completions at the FCS level, but for the second consecutive year will see his season end courtesy of the Georgia Southern Eagles. Heinicke threw for over 400 yards and rushed for just under 50 and accumulated a total of four touchdowns of his own. However, he had two crucial turnovers in the last frame that aided in the Eagles' comeback.

As the Eagles have done so many times this season, multiple players stepped up in crunch time to seal the win. Dominique Swope led the team with 186 yards on the ground and his 12 yard scamper with 2:36 to play put his team on top for good. McKinnon rushed for 171 yards totaling four touchdowns. Then playmakers Darreion Robinson and Johnathon Bryant had stellar performances as they combined for 147 rushes on only 10 carries. The players of the game though has to go to a couple of defensive standouts. Dion DuBose came through with a clutch sack that forced a fumble when the Monarchs were driving in the red zone looking to ice the game. Then, with the game on the line, senior leader JJ Wilcox put the nail in the coffin when he intercepted Heinicke's first down pass late in the fourth.

The Eagles will now face off against North Dakota State from the Fargo Dome Friday night in a nationally-televised rematch of last year's Semifinals that NDSU won 35-7.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.