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Numbers Never Lie: And then there were four

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Updated: 12/15/2013 12:51 pm

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - It's easy to distinguish the players who thrive in big-game situations from those who play every game the same.

History gives us hints, but the stat sheets tell it all.

On Friday night in snowy-turned-rainy conditions at O'Brien Field in Charleston, Ill., one of the single-greatest playoff performances not only helped a team into the semifinals, but it took care of the nation's top scoring offense and made it nearly irrelevant.

Towson running back Terrance West's 354 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns single-handedly beat the No. 2 seed Eastern Illinois Panthers, who led by record-setting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

But West didn't seem to care about the conditions or the sovereignty level status of the Panthers offense. He had his own record-setting season to build upon.

The No. 7 seed Tigers advanced, 49-39, over Eastern Illinois and will travel to face Eastern Washington in the semifinal round next weekend. For the second straight week, we'll see two Walter Payton Award finalists butting heads on the field in West and Eagles quarterback Vernon Adams.

West's rushing totals are tops in the league, as the junior back has accumulated 2,305 rushing yards this season, which is once again tops after South Dakota State back Zach Zenner led the league just last week. He's also scored 38 rushing touchdowns -- nine more than Jacksonville State back DaMarcus James -- and has 39 total this season.

The 38 rushing touchdowns in the most by any player in FCS history, and West isn't even finished yet.

Let's get to it. Here are some stats that stood out from the quarterfinal round of the FCS playoffs:

WEST LEADS DEADLY RUSHING ATTACK

Towson's West set a new playoff rushing record with 354 yards on the ground Friday at Eastern Illinois, a record previously held by Georgia Southern running back and former Chicago Bear Adrian Peterson. Peterson set the record at 333 yards in the 1999 postseason.

West, who after the game was unaware of his accomplishment, led a stable of Towson backs over the Panthers. All together, the Tigers gained 472 yards on the ground in the 49-39 win, which is good for fourth-most by a team in a single game this entire season. It's also the highest rushing total Towson has had in 2013.

Seven times Towson scored on the ground, which was led by West's five. Freshman back Darius Victor punched home a 3-yard run in the fourth quarter, which gave the Tigers a 10-point lead, and Connor Frazier tied the score at 14-14 in the second quarter on a 4-yard plunge.

Eastern Illinois jumped out to a 14-0 lead, which is typical of the high- powered Panthers offense. But Towson didn't let it affect its game, battling back to take the lead in the second quarter and again in the third.

Senior quarterback Peter Athens was effective when West didn't have the ball in his hands, completing 8-of-13 passing for 115 yards.

Eastern Illinois converted five of six fourth-down attempts, and ended the game with more first downs than Towson (28-26), but simply couldn't handle the 8.2 yards per carry average the Tigers paced throughout the night.

It was the first loss to an FCS team all season for the Panthers, and the second loss overall. Towson will play its first ever game against a Big Sky opponent next weekend in the national semifinals when it travels to Eastern Washington.

BISON TOO MUCH FOR CHANTICLEERS

Playing in the national quarterfinals seemed to be just a formality for North Dakota State -- something it had to do and simply get it over with to advance.

At the Fargodome, the Bison completely overmatched the visiting Coastal Carolina team, running out to a 31-0 lead in the second quarter before the Chanticleers finally reached the end zone with 30 seconds left in the first half.

Coastal Carolina was just 1-for-9 on third-down attempts, while North Dakota State was 7-for-13. It was clear the Bison knew how to extend drives, evidenced by their time of possession. The Bison held the ball for 39:45 compared to Coastal's 20:15 time of possession.

Typically a dangerous rushing team behind senior running back Lorenzo Taliaferro, the Chanticleers managed just 96 yards on the ground Saturday afternoon. Taliaferro scored his 27th rushing touchdown on the season, but by that time in the second quarter the game had already gotten away from the Chants.

The nation's top scoring defense (11.2 points per game entering Saturday's contest with Coastal Carolina) held the nation's third-best scoring offense (42.9 points per game before Saturday) to 14 points total.

The efficient play continues to come from the Bison offense, led by senior quarterback Brock Jensen, who extended his FCS-leading win total to 46 games. The Bison accumulated 424 rushing yards and outgained Coastal's offense in total yards, 623-281. North Dakota State didn't turn the ball over once.

It was the 22nd consecutive win for North Dakota State, stretching back to the 2012 season. The Bison have also won 10 straight postseason games, which includes back-to-back national championships. They face New Hampshire next weekend in Fargo for chance at becoming the second team in FCS history to win three straight national titles (Appalachian State from 2005-07).

EAGLES SURVIVE GAMECOCKS TO ADVANCE

It was an extremely well-balanced game in Cheney between No. 3 seed Eastern Washington and Jacksonville State. That is, until freshman quarterback Eli Jenkins suffered a knee injury before halftime and didn't return to the Gamecocks' lineup.

Both offenses were picking the opposing defenses apart in the first half at The Inferno Saturday. Jenkins had already thrown for 127 yards and a touchdown and gained 118 rushing yards before taking a hit to his knee, which caused him to sit out the remainder of the contest.

Things got worse for Jacksonville State when running back DaMarcus James (second in the nation with 29 rushing touchdowns) had to leave the game in the third quarter with a thigh bruise.

In the end, the Eagles forced costly Gamecocks turnovers -- most notably an Albert Havili interception of backup quarterback Max Shortell he returned 77 yards for a game-clinching touchdown in the fourth quarter. The final game totals reflect a very even match.

Eastern Washington outgained Jacksonville State in total yards, 545-528. That included 324 Eagles passing yards to Jacksonville State's 303, and 221 rushing yards to the Gamecocks' 225.

Junior Eagles running back Quincy Forte was stellar for the second consecutive week in the playoffs, gaining 190 yards and scoring twice on the ground. In two playoff games, Forte has run for 393 yards and three touchdowns.

Freshman receiver Cooper Kupp extended his nation-leading streak of games with a receiving touchdown to 14, when the 6-foot-2 Eagles receiver hauled in a 29- yard scoring pass from Vernon Adams in the first quarter. Kupp leads the nation with 21 receiving touchdowns on the season.

But it was fellow receiving mate Ashton Clark that did the most damage to the Jacksonville State defensive backfield. Clark led all receivers with 11 receptions for 181 yards and a touchdown.

The Eagles will host seventh-seeded Towson next weekend with a trip to the national title game in Frisco, Texas, on the line.

NEW HAMPSHIRE STUNS SOUTHEASTERN

Football is a game of opportunities, and the New Hampshire win over Southeastern Louisiana in Hammond proved that Saturday night.

Despite the fact that New Hampshire had two field goals and an extra point blocked, the Wildcats took advantage of a missed Lions field goal and a critical fourth-and-inches run by quarterback Sean Goldrich to win, 20-17, to advance to the program's first-ever semifinal.

Goldrich pounded home a 2-yard keeper for a score with 47 seconds left to play that gave the Wildcats a 20-17 lead. Several Lions offensive plays later, that's how the score ended.

Goldrich doubled his season total of three rushing touchdowns Saturday, as the sophomore rushed for 99 yards and three scores on 21 carries -- the only touchdowns New Hampshire scored in the win.

Junior receiver R.J. Harris was Goldrich's top target Saturday. Harris hauled in 11 receptions for 110 yards. Senior Justin Mello caught five balls for 84 yards.

The Wildcats entered Saturday's contest with an 0-6 record in FCS quarterfinal games. But after winning eight of their last nine games, including 5-2 versus nationally ranked teams, the Wildcats were riding momentum.

New Hampshire will travel to face top-seeded North Dakota State next weekend with a shot at the national title game on the line.

Southeastern quarterback Bryan Bennett finished the game 25-of-46 passing for 269 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He also had 29 rushing yards and a score -- his 15th rushing score of the season, which is a Southland Conference single-season record.

Entering the game averaging 40 points per contest, the Lions were held to just 17 by a New Hampshire defense that has amassed 26 tackles for loss in three postseason games. It was the first loss at home on the season for SLU.

The 10-game Southeastern winning streak that dated back to Sept. 21 is over. Now New Hampshire has won nine of its last 10, including six in a row.

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