Central Arkansas quarterback Wynrick Smothers, left, escapes pressure from Georgia Southern defensive tackle Justice Ejike during a fourth-quarter pass attempt at Paulson Stadium in Statesboro on Saturday. Georgia Southern won, 24-16, to advance in the NCAA FCS playoffs.
STATESBORO – Jerick McKinnon rushed 34 times for 316 yards, the second-highest total in school history, and the Eagle defense gave up just one touchdown on the day as No. 6 Georgia Southern moved on in the NCAA Division I Football Championship with a 24-16 victory over No. 8 Central Arkansas Saturday afternoon at Paulson Stadium.
The Eagles advance to the quarterfinal round and will travel to Old Dominion for a contest either Friday or Saturday.
McKinnon’s rushing total was just 17 yards shy of Adrian Peterson’s
333 against UMass in the 1999 FCS Playoffs, and the junior quarterback tallied two rushing touchdowns. He also completed two passes for 79 yards and a score. Dominique Swope finished with 17 carries for 64 yards for the Eagles (9-3).
“The stats might go under my name, but all 10 guys out there with me get the credit,” said McKinnon. “There were some great blocks out there on the perimeter. Central Arkansas was skating to the pitch, and I just tried to turn it up field.”
Wynrick Smothers threw for 251 yards and ran for 79 to lead Central Arkansas (9-2), and Jackie Hinton rushed eight times for 53 yards.
Dezmin Lewis caught four passes for 90 yards, and Dominique Croom had two receptions for 70 yards. Eddie Camara made three field goals.
The Eagle defense held Central Arkansas to 3-of-12 on third down for the game including 1-of-4 in the second half. The Bears also went
0-for-2 on fourth-down chances.
“I’m proud of our defense because when we got some big plays against us, we didn’t let it affect us,” said Georgia Southern coach Jeff Monken. “We lined up and kept fighting and went right back after them.”
Georgia Southern built a 24-9 halftime lead by scoring touchdowns on its first three possessions and adding a field goal on its fourth.
Meanwhile the Bears made two trips in the red zone on its first four series but came away with just six total points.
The Bears trimmed the lead to 24-16 early in the third quarter on a Hinton 19-yard run, but could get no closer. They drove down to the GSU 41-yard line late in the game and were set to go for it on 4th-and-1, but a false start penalty pushed them back and the Bears elected to punt.
GSU ran eight straight times, and Luke Cherry placed a pretty 47-yard punt at the Central Arkansas 6-yard line with 2:58 remaining. After a pass interference penalty move the ball out to the 21, Smothers completed a pass for 10 yards to Lewis, but Nic Wright forced a fumble and the Eagles recovered to seal the game.
“This is the most fun time of year because you have to win to get to play again,” said Monken. “I’m just impressed with our whole team and how much they care about each other and play together as a team. We win games like this because we guys who care about each other and are willing to lay it on the line.”
The game started like a heavyweight fight with each team jabbing and probing the other to see what would work. The Eagles landed the first punch on their second offensive possession when McKinnon went around left end on the quarterback keeper, saw daylight and scampered 57 yards for a touchdown 5:28 into the contest. It was tied for the seventh longest TD run in school playoff history.
After a 35-yard pickup on a pass from Smothers to Lewis down to the GSU 20-yard line, the Eagle defense held, and Central Arkansas settled for a Camara 34-yard field goal that made the score 7-3 midway through the first period.
J.J. Wilcox gave the Eagles great field position on the ensuing drive with a 39-yard kickoff return after the Bears were flagged for a kick out of bounds and had to kick again from the 30-yard line. McKinnon started the drive with an 11-yard run on a keeper and later on
2nd-and-10 from the Bear 32, he threw a perfect ball over the middle, hitting Darreion Robinson in stride for the touchdown and a 14-3 lead.
The Eagles pinned the Bears deep in their own end, tackling Jesse Grandy on his own 7-yard line on the kickoff. Central Arkansas picked up a first down on 3rd-and-12 with a 13 yard pass from Smothers to Grandy, and Smothers found Croom for a 42-yard pass down the sideline on the next play. But the Eagle defense held again, forcing the Bears to settle for another Camara field goal, this time from 42 yards, to make the score 14-6.
Georgia Southern scored on a 6-yard McKinnon run on its next series to open a 21-6 advantage 1:08 into the second quarter. McKinnon set up the score with a 51-yard run down the right sideline after Swope ran for 12 yards up the middle.
The Bears came right back down the field and this time, elected to go for it on 4th-and-goal from the 4-yard line. Wilcox came off the edge and got good pressure on Smothers, who threw to Terrence Bobo at the 2-yard line, but Eagle linebacker Kyle Ohelbeck was there to knock him out of bounds, turning the ball over to the Eagles.
The Eagles took 7:51 off the clock on their ensuing drive, and Alex Hanks knocked in a 40-yard field goal to give GSU a 24-6 cushion with
2:31 left in the half. McKinnon keyed the drive with a 47-yard pass to Zach Walker on 3rd-and-7 from the Eagle 5-yard line.
A 20-yard pass from Smothers to Hinton set up a 30-yard Camara field goal, trimming the margin to 24-9 at the break.
The Eagles were driving down the field looking to add to their lead on the first series of the second half, but McKinnon underthrew his receiver, and Karl Brady intercepted at the 5-yard line, returning it to the Bear 41.
The Bears went into a hurry-up offense, and Hinton rushed for 11 yards and caught a 13-yard pass from Smothers as Central Arkansas moved down to the GSU 19-yard line. Hinton then went 19 yards for a touchdown on a run over the left side, cutting the margin to 24-16 early in the third quarter.
NOTES: It’s the Eagles’ third consecutive FCS Playoff appearance… GSU improved to 44-12 in FCS Playoff games and 33-3 at home… Central Arkansas topped the Eagles 34-31 in overtime in an FCS Playoff game at Paulson Stadium in 2006 in their only other meeting.
DIVISION I ROUNDUP: Oklahoma tops TCU, snags share of Big 12 title; Tulsa takes C-USA crown with OT win
FORT WORTH, Texas — Landry Jones threw for 244 yards and two touchdowns, Damien Williams ran untouched 66 yards for a score and 12th-ranked Oklahoma held on to win 24-17 at TCU on Saturday and clinch at least a share of the Big 12 title.
TCU’s fourth-down pass to the goal-line in the final minute was well-defended and fell incomplete.
The Sooners (10-2, 8-1 Big 12) won their eighth consecutive Big 12 game since a late-September loss to Kansas State, which played it regular-season finale at home Saturday night against No. 23 Texas. Oklahoma would have the outright title and guaranteed BCS spot if the seventh-ranked Wildcats lose.
Oklahoma, whose only other loss was to No. 1 Notre Dame, is in good shape for the final at-large BCS berth even if K-State wins.
TCU (7-5, 4-5) lost all four of its Big 12 games at home despite winning four on the road.
Baylor 41, No. 24 Oklahoma State 34: Lache Seastrunk rushed for 178 yards, including a 76-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, and Nick Florence passed for 296 yards as Baylor won its regular-season finale at home.
Baylor (7-5, 4-5 Big 12) has won at least seven games in three straight seasons — the first time the Bears have done that since 1949-51.
Seastrunk’s long scoring run gave Baylor a 41-27 lead with 5:11 left in the game.
The sophomore burst through the middle and slowed down about 25 yards shy of the end zone. Seastrunk stumbled into the end zone and was down on the turf before limping off with an apparent right leg injury.
J.W. Walsh rushed for two touchdowns for Oklahoma State (7-5, 5-4).
No. 7 Kansas St. 42, No. 23 Texas 24: Collin Klein threw a touchdown pass and ran for two scores and No. 7 Kansas State beat No. 23 Texas 42-24 on Saturday night for its third conference title in 117 years and a trip to the Fiesta Bowl.
The Wildcats had never played for a conference championship in their last game at home, and had never had a player end the regular season in such close contention for the Heisman Trophy as Klein.
Neither of his main competitors, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel nor Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o, played this weekend. So Klein, a multitalented senior, had the stage all to himself, one last chance to burnish his credentials for what would be Kansas State’s first Heisman.
In front of their sixth sellout in seven home games, the Wildcats (11-1, 8-1 Big 12) tied their team record for victories in a season and matched Oklahoma’s Big 12 record.
Pittsburgh 27, South Florida 3: Ray Graham rushed for a pair of touchdowns and went over 1,000 yards Saturday night to help Pittsburgh become bowl eligible with a 27-3 rout of struggling South Florida.
Tino Sunseri threw for 211 yards and one TD for the Panthers (6-6, 3-4 Big East) to join Graham in giving Pitt a 3,000-yard passer and 1,000-yard rusher in the same season for the first time in school history.
USF (3-9, 1-6) finished its second straight losing season by losing nine of 10 following a 2-0 start, a slide that could cost coach Skip Holtz his job.
Graham scored on a pair of 1-yard runs, Sunseri tossed a 2-yard TD pass to J.P. Holtz, and a Pitt defense that’s allowed just nine points the past two weeks held USF to 117 yards and forced four turnovers.
West Virginia 59, Kansas 10: Geno Smith threw for 407 yards and three touchdowns in his final home game to lead West Virginia
Smith completed 23 of 24 passes and became the first West Virginia quarterback to throw for 40 touchdowns in a season. His 95.8 completion percentage matched the single-game Bowl Subdivision record set by Tennessee’s Tee Martin against South Carolina in 1998.
West Virginia (7-5, 4-5 Big 12) scored touchdowns on five of its six first-half possessions. Stedman Bailey had 159 receiving yards and two touchdowns to boost his FBS-leading total to 23.
Kansas (1-11, 0-9) lost for the 11th straight time, the longest streak at the school since the Jayhawks lost 17 straight from 1953-55.
No. 16 Oregon State 77, Nicholls State 3: Storm Woods ran for two touchdowns in the first quarter and No. 16 Oregon State put up its highest point total ever, routing Nicholls State in a game postponed by Hurricane Isaac.
The Beavers surpassed their 76-0 win over Willamette in 1931.
Oregon State (9-3) started playing its substitutes against the lower-division Colonels in taking a 35-0 halftime lead. Markus Wheaton caught 12 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown and sat out the second half.
Officials from both schools decided to put off the Sept. 1 opener when the storm bore down on the Colonels’ campus in Thibodeaux, La.
The Beavers had a complete turnaround from their 3-9 finish last year. Oregon State is possibly headed to the Holiday Bowl in San Diego on Dec. 27, and representatives from that bowl and the Alamo Bowl were in attendance. The team will learn its destination today.
Louisiana-Lafayette 35, Florida Atlantic 21: Terrance Broadway posted 291 all-purpose yards and Alonzo Harris ran for three touchdowns to help Louisiana-Lafayette hold off Florida Atlantic in the season finale for both clubs.
Broadway threw for 168 yards and ran for 123 of Louisiana-Lafayette’s 284 rushing yards as the Ragin’ Cajuns (8-4, 6-2 Sun Belt Conference) won their third-straight game.
No. 25 Boise State 27, Nevada 21: Joe Southwick threw two touchdown passes to lead No. 25 Boise State, earning the Broncos a share of the Mountain West Conference title and ensuring their nation’s best seventh consecutive 10-win season.
D.J. Harper ran for 130 yards for Boise State (10-2, 7-1) and the Broncos’ defense put the clamps on a Nevada offense that was averaging 38 points per game.
Stefphon Jefferson ran for 139 yards and a touchdown and Cody Fajardo passed for 203 yards and ran for 81 for the Wolf Pack (7-5, 4-4), who lost four of their last five games after starting the season 6-1.
Cincinnati 34, Connecticut 17: Brendon Kay threw two touchdown passes to Travis Kelce, and caught one from the big tight end on a trick play as Cincinnati rolled.
The win gives the Bearcats (9-3) a share of the Big East championship, along with Louisville, Rutgers and Syracuse, all of which ended the season with 5-2 conference records. Cincinnati’s two conference losses came to the Cardinals and Scarlet Knights and the Bearcats were not in the running for the conference’s Bowl Championship Series bowl berth.
Conference USA Championship
TULSA, Okla. — Alex Singleton ran for 100 yards and plunged over the top for a 1-yard score in overtime to lift Tulsa to a 33-27 victory against UCF on Saturday in the Conference USA championship game.
Tulsa won the C-USA championship for the first time since 2005 and is off to the Liberty Bowl.
Singleton came up with just the second 100-yard game of his career, breaking the school record for touchdowns in the process. He also had a 7-yard score in the second quarter to break Tarrion Adams’ mark with his 40th overall touchdown and 39 on the ground.
After Cory Dorris blocked Shawn Moffitt’s 38-yard field goal on Central Florida’s possession to start overtime, Tulsa (10-3) kept the ball on the ground on five straight plays. Singleton was initially given a touchdown on second-and-goal, but officials ruled on replay that he was down inside the 1.
That was no problem for the burly back whose specialty is short yardage.
Blake Bortles accounted for three touchdowns for UCF (9-4).