New Hampshire at #1 North Dakota State 2013 FCS Playoffs Semifinal Game Breakdown

New Hampshire at #1 North Dakota State 2013 FCS Playoffs Semifinal Game Breakdown


New Hampshire at #1 North Dakota State, Friday, 8:00 pm

We’ve all heard the tired line about teams peaking at the right time.  It seems as though every time a team goes on a run, that simple statement emerges.  It may be forgiven, however, to use the statement in the case of the New Hampshire Wildcats.  UNH notched a 20-17 victory at Southeastern Louisiana to secure the school’s first-ever FCS playoffs quarterfinal win after six previous losses in the round.  The Wildcats have not lost a game since a 17-0 decision to William & Mary in Williamsburg on November 2nd.  After starting the season 1-3, UNH now finds itself with a trip to Fargo as a reward for going 9-1 over the last ten games. 

New Hampshire mostly held the mighty Southeastern Louisiana offense at bay on Saturday, as the Lions’ 15th-ranked rushing offense (233.6 yards per game) was only able to compile 75 yards on the ground.  Southeastern quarterback Bryan Bennett had a reasonably productive day, completing 26-of-45 passes for 269 yards.  Bennett added a touchdown and an interception.  He was bested, however, by his opposite number.  UNH quarterback Sean Goldrich completed 24-of-35 passes for 276 yards, and despite not throwing for a touchdown, he found the end zone three times on the day.  Goldrich’s third score was the most important, as he scored the eventual game-winning touchdown on a two-yard run with less than a minute remaining.  Goldrich led his team in rushing, carrying 21 times for 99 yards.

The Wildcats nearly tripled the Lions’ output on the ground, rushing for 203 yards.  In addition to Goldrich’s 99 yards, running back Nico Steriti rushed for 75 yards.  Steriti has cracked the 70-yard barrier in both of UNH’s playoff tilts.  Receiver R.J. Harris snared 11 of Goldrich’s 24 completions, totaling 110 yards.  New Hampshire dealt Southeastern Louisiana its first loss in exactly three months, stretching their win streak against nationally-ranked foes to five.

The fact that North Dakota State defeated Coastal Carolina on Saturday was not that grand of a surprise to many.  The surprise was the manner in which the victory occurred.  The Bison hung 623 yards of offense on the Chanticleers in a 48-14 final.  NDSU gashed Coastal’s 104th-ranked rush defense for 424 yards on 54 carries, scoring four rushing touchdowns.  Bison quarterback Brock Jensen was not forced to throw much on the day, but did complete 15-of-22 passes for 199 yards and two scores.  North Dakota State’s potent offense was expected, but Coastal Carolina’s lack of success on offense was the true story of the day. 

The Bison jumped out to a 31-0 lead in the first half, with their five scoring drives totaling 328 yards.  Coastal completed a seven-play, 76-yard touchdown drive on a three-yard run by Lorenzo Taliaferro, but could do very little to respond during the second half.  The Chanticleers scored just once more, with a 20-yard reception by Matt Hazel capping the first CCU drive of the third quarter.  Coastal rushed for just 96 yards, well below their season average of 252.1 yards per game.  Taliaferro carried 11 times for 54 yards, leading his team in rushing.  Quarterback Alex Ross completed 13-of-26 passes for 185 yards, getting picked off twice by the Bison.  Coastal totaled almost 200 fewer yards than their season average, managing 281 yards of offense on the day.

NDSU enjoyed a decided advantage in time of possession, almost doubling the Chanticleers in that category.  NDSU’s offense wore down the CCU defense, staying on the field for 39:45 during the contest.  The Bison converted 7-of-13 third down opportunities, holding Coastal to just 1-of-9 in similar tries.

The impressive manner by which North Dakota State has defeated both Furman and Coastal Carolina, combined with their back-to-back national titles, clearly makes the Bison the team to beat in the semifinals.  Their ability to light up the scoreboard and lock down the most powerful of opponents simply must be acknowledged.  Conversely, New Hampshire is clearly a team on a mission.  The Wildcats have outscored opponents 200-91 during their six-game win streak, with two road playoff victories under their belt.  They have not faced a team like NDSU during this run, though, and they have not faced an environment like the Fargodome.

Projected Score: North Dakota State 45, New Hampshire 14


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