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In the FCS Huddle: Know the 'other' guys, too


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Updated: 12/15/2013 2:43 pm Published: 12/14/2013 11:13 pm


Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Sure, you know Terrance West, Vernon Adams, Marcus Williams, R.J. Harris ... all-conference or All-American or just all-everything to their respective team.

But football teams win championships, not football players.

As the FCS playoffs keep paring down, going from the original 24 teams to next weekend's four semifinalists, there are so many supporting actors who have been shining behind the stars.

A precious few tend to grab the headlines, but despite their undeniable talent, they often look so good because of what others are doing alongside them.

In next Saturday's offensive showcase of Towson at Eastern Washington, it's easy to point toward West, the FCS rushing leader who is coming off a game for the ages, taking on Adams and his favorite receiver in the Eastern passing game, Cooper Kupp.

But while the Eastern defense puts its focus on West, freshman Darius Victor could sneak up on the Eagles. He's the CAA Football offensive rookie of the year and averaging nearly seven yards a carry. In Towson's quarterfinal-round win at Eastern Illinois, Victor gained 80 yards and one touchdown on 11 carries. He has to be accounted for by Eastern.

And speaking of running backs, the Eagles' Quincy Forte has been so big in the playoffs that a case can be made he's been to key to the offense over Adams.

OK, that's pushing it. But Forte scored nine touchdowns in the Eagles' final four games of the regular season, and he's rushed for 393 yards and three touchdowns in two playoff wins. In the process, the junior has soared past 1,000 yards for the season.

Wide receiver Ashton Clark has been more than a complement to Kupp. Against Jacksonville State on Saturday, Clark caught 11 passes for 181 yards and one touchdown, also going past 1,000 yards for the season.

The other semifinal matchup Friday night sees North Dakota State going for a third straight appearance in the national championship game by hosting surprising New Hampshire. The Bison feature a smothering defense that just doesn't have any holiday spirit.

You're well aware of the secondary with the All-American Williams, Colton Heagle and Christian Dudzik, but the big boys up in the trenches are making it easy on the back units.

Nose guard Ryan Drevlow is an All-Missouri Valley Football Conference first- teamer and fellow starters Kyle Emanuel and Cole Jurik at end and Leevon Perry at tackle apply pressure on opposing backfields.

It's a daunting assignment, of course, for UNH's offense.

But the Wildcats have a great mix of running and passing. Harris has been terrific catching passes on the outside for three years now, including 11 balls for 110 yards Saturday night at Southeastern Louisiana.

But Harris is not even their leading receiver this season. Justin Mello is their 1,000-yard receiver with 71 receptions and 10 touchdowns. And don't forget impressive tight end Harold Spears.

These are a just a small handful of players working behind the stars. There are plenty of others who also are helping their team get to where it's at today - the national semifinals.

PLAYOFF QUARTERFINALS SCOREBOARD

A roundup of FCS quarterfinal playoff games can be found at http://tinyurl.com/muwrh5f.

GAME BALLS

Offense - Terrance West. Yeah, that wasn't so hard. The Towson junior rushed for an FCS playoff-record 354 yards as well as five touchdowns on 39 carries in the Tigers' 49-39 road win over Eastern Illinois. He surpassed Adrian Peterson's 333 yards in a Georgia Southern playoff game in 1999. With 39 touchdowns this season, West has tied the FCS single-season record, first set by Delaware's Omar Cuff in 2007.

Defense - As Eastern Washington cornerback T.J. Lee III winds down a brilliant career, he was in on 12 tackles, including 10 solos, with a tackle for loss, a pass breakup and a quarterback hurry in the Eagles' 35-24 victory over Jacksonville State.

Special Teams - North Dakota State's Adam Keller opened and closed the scoring in the first half with field goals, including a 48-yarder, as the top-seeded Bison built a commanding 34-7 lead in its 48-14 victory over Coastal Carolina. Keller also was 6-for-6 on extra points.

CONFERENCE SCOREBOARD

It's a season of vindication for CAA Football with two teams reaching the national semifinals, although New Hampshire and Towson will have to win on the road.

As usual, power conferences are looking good with the Missouri Valley (North Dakota State) and Big Sky (Eastern Washington) also forging on to the final four.

Records of the 11 FCS conferences in the FCS playoffs:

CAA - 5-1 (.833)

Missouri Valley - 3-1 (.750)

Big South - 2-1 (.667)

Ohio Valley - 4-3 (.571)

Big Sky - 2-3 (.400)

Southland - 2-3 (.400)

Patriot - 1-2 (.333)

Southern - 1-2 (.333)

Northeast - 0-1 (.000)

Pioneer - 0-1 (.000)

Mid-Eastern Athletic - 0-2 (.000)

FCS AWARDS

The winners of the four major awards in the FCS - the Walter Payton (outstanding player), Buck Buchanan (outstanding defensive player), Jerry Rice (FCS freshman of the year) and Eddie Robinson (FCS coach of the year) - will be announced on Monday.

The FCS Awards can be found at http://tinyurl.com/yhv6oh8.

THE PICKS

Week 16 Record: 3-1 (.750)

Season Record: 633-222 (.740)

X-Predicted Winner

Dec. 20-21

All Times ET

FCS Playoff Semifinals

Friday, Dec. 20

New Hampshire (10-4) at X-No. 1 seed North Dakota State (13-0), 8 p.m. (ESPN2) - They have all been signed up for frequent flier miles from Fargo to Frisco, right?

Saturday, Dec. 21

X-No. 7 seed Towson (12-2) at No. 3 seed Eastern Washington (12-2), 2 p.m. (ESPNU) - The Tigers had enough of an answer for Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Now they need one for Vernon Adams.


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