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Numbers Never Lie: Three seeds out, but top four remain

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Updated: 12/08/2013 11:24 am

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Second-round FCS playoff action ended in dramatic fashion Saturday night as No. 4 seed Southeastern Louisiana scored on a touchdown pass from Bryan Bennett with 36 seconds remaining to give the Lions a one-point win over Sam Houston State.

It also saved the team some manufactured embarrassment, which only would have existed mainly because the four-seed status tagged to the Lions denotes a superiority over all but three teams in the country, which we know not to necessarily be true.

Sam Houston State is a very good football team with as much playoff experience in the last three seasons as even the two-time defending champion, North Dakota State. But you can imagine the conversations today had the Bearkats held on to win. "Can you believe the fourth seed lost to an unseeded team?"

Instead, we're talking about the matchup that pits Southeastern Louisiana against the team that beat the fifth seed Saturday. And the matchup of the top overall seed versus the team that just beat the eighth seed. And the third seed against the team that beat the sixth seed.

Three seeded teams in the postseason lost on Saturday to unseeded teams, but it's not shocking. Consider the fact that New Hampshire beat Maine just 15 days ago in the regular season, and the Wildcats did it again, this time in Maine, to advance to the quarterfinals.

Coastal Carolina traveled to Montana and used an offense that was averaging 43 points per game to dispose of the Grizzlies, 42-35, despite the single-digits temperature.

Jacksonville State unleashed a senior running back who has scored 25 touchdowns prior to Saturday's contest against McNeese State and, thanks to two first-half touchdowns and a late fourth-quarter score, the Gamecocks are still playing.

Seeds are simply a way of separating out the playoff bracket. Sure the higher seeds had better regular seasons. But when it comes to the playoffs and a one- and-done scenario, it's anybody's game.

Here are some other numbers that stood out in the second round of the FCS playoffs:

WEST GETS BETTER AGAINST FORDHAM

Towson junior running back Terrance West, who is a finalist for the Walter Payton Award handed to the nation's most outstanding player, kept up his, well, outstanding play Saturday in the Tigers' win over Fordham. West added to his season total of 31 touchdowns with three more rushing scores against the Rams. He now has a season-best 33 rushing scores and one receiving.

Fordham quarterback Michael Nebrich did all he could to stiffle the Tigers, but even his 394 passing yards and four touchdowns couldn't keep up with their torrid offensive pace. Nebrich attempted 50 passes in the loss, connecting on 37 of them to receivers. Tight end Dan Light had 13 receptions for 122 yards, while Sam Ajala brought in eight for 120 yards and two touchdowns. The Rams lost only twice this season.

COASTAL BRAVES THE COLD

Both Coastal Carolina quarterback Alex Ross and running back Lorenzo Taliaferro were superb against Montana at Washington-Grizzly Stadium, as each player rushed for over 100 yards in the win. Ross carried the ball 21 times for 123 yards, while Taliaferro gained 104 yards and scored two touchdowns on 16 carries. Ross also completed 16-of-21 pass attempts for 202 yards and three touchdowns.

The Chanticleers only had one penalty called against them Saturday for a meager five yards.

On the other side, the Grizzlies' flair for the dramatic was cut short. After being buried in 35-14 and 42-21 holes, quarterback Jordan Johnson led Montana on a comeback charge that included two late touchdown passes in the fourth quarter to bring the Griz within one score. But in the end it was too little, too late for Montana. Johnson finished the game with 388 passing yards and four touchdowns with one interception.

NEW HAMPSHIRE HOT FOR DECEMBER

In a first-round playoff win over Lafayette, New Hampshire's defense was outstanding in recording 10 sacks and 14 tackles for loss. Saturday in Maine, it was the defense again that seemingly stole the show. The Wildcats forced Maine senior quarterback Marcus Wasilewski to throw two interceptions and held the Black Bears offense to 3-for-13 on third-down attempts.

Quarterback Sean Goldrich completed 16-of-27 pass attempts for 291 yards and three touchdowns, two of them to Justin Mello.

Don't look now, but New Hampshire has won eight of its last nine games.

Maine kick returner Damarr Aultman averaged 35.8 yards per kick return Saturday, gaining 143 yards on four returns. His highlight was an 88-yard kick return for a touchdown that gave Maine a lead. He also caught five passes for 39 yards.

EASTERN ILLINOIS STILL PERFECT AGAINST FCS

The Panthers started up their 2013 playoff run with a convincing, 51-10 trouncing of Ohio Valley Conference rival Tennessee State.

It was the first time this season Tennessee State's defense gave up more than 50 points in a single game. Despite that, the Tigers defense still sits at No. 7 in the nation in scoring defense after 14 games, giving up an average of 18.1 points per game.

The struggle has been fumbles for the Tigers. In 14 games, the Tigers lost 20 fumbles, which is second to last in the nation (OK, it's weighted down a bit because they played more games than most teams).

The Eastern Illinois rushing attack was the dominant force against Tennessee State Saturday. The team totaled 313 rushing yards, mostly from Shepard Little's team-high 184 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries. Taylor Duncan contributed 79 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries.

NORTH DAKOTA STATE ON ROAD BACK TO FRISCO

The Bison offense was an astounding 11-for-13 on third-down conversions Saturday in the 38-7 win over Furman. The Paladins couldn't handle senior quarterback Brock Jensen, who passed for 249 yards and two touchdowns in the win. He added a rushing score.

The only points Furman could muster came on a 1-yard touchdown run by Marcus Anderson. This season, North Dakota State's defense has only allowed three teams to score more than 20 points in a game. In the last six games, opponents have scored a combined 54 points against the Bison.

North Dakota State hasn't lost a playoff game in two years, and has to get two more wins to go to get back to Frisco, Texas - site of the national championship game. The Bison face an explosive offense in Coastal Carolina next Saturday in Fargo.

SECOND-HALF EXPLOSION IN CHENEY

Eastern Washington and South Dakota State were tied 14-14 at halftime in their second-round playoff meeting, but the Eagles made sure the gap between the two squads was pretty large in the second half.

Vernon Adams had five touchdown passes, but running back Quincy Forte added a significant rushing dimension Saturday. Forte ran for 202 yards and a touchdown in the 41-17 win, which accounted for a healthy majority of the team's 287 total rushing yards. The Eagles attempted 43 runs and only 22 passes.

Jackrabbits junior running back Zach Zenner gained 71 yards on the ground in the game, which put him over the 2,000-yard mark for the season. He becomes the second FCS player in history to record back-to-back 2,000-yard rushing seasons. He had one touchdown for South Dakota State Saturday.

JACKSONVILLE STATE ROLLING

Senior running back DaMarcus James and the Gamecocks didn't let the home (albeit cowbell-less) crowd at Cowboy Stadium get to them Saturday. Jacksonville State scored early and often in the 31-10 win over McNeese State, highlighted by James's 124-yard, three-touchdown effort.

The senior set a Jacksonville State record for most rushing yards in a season with 1,428. He has 28 touchdowns this season.

Senior McNeese State quarterback Cody Stroud had a rough day, completing just 18 of his 40 pass attempts (45 percent) for 255 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. The Cowboys offense managed just 46 total rushing yards, while Stroud was tagged for minus-51 rushing.

LIONS SURVIVE SECOND MEETING WITH BEARKATS

Sam Houston State hung around with Southeastern Louisiana, and appeared to have a win right in its grasp until a late Lions drive and Bryan Bennett touchdown pass ended the Bearkats' season.

Bennett accounted for 369 of the team's 495 total offensive yards (286 passing, 83 rushing) and had three total touchdowns, including the 1-yard strike to Jeff Smiley with 36 seconds to play. It was the first FCS playoff win for Southeastern.

The Bearkats may have killed themselves, though. The team was a collective 0- for-11 on third-down tries, and 0-for-3 on fourth-down attempts. Although the team didn't turn the ball over, senior quarterback Brian Bell was 3-of-15 passing for a mere 15 yards. Sam Houston State's offense relies on the run game (which racked up 287 yards), but the week before against Southern Utah Bell was 15-of-21 passing for 176 yards and two touchdowns. Jekyll showed up Saturday.

The Bearkats' run at a third straight national title appearance came to an end. Sam Houston State lost three of its last four games, including two to Southeastern Louisiana.

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