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Playoffs haveSouthern flavor

By United Press International   |   Dec. 7, 2001 at 10:17 AM   |   Comments

There's a distinct Southern flavor about Saturday's Division 1-AA football playoff quarterfinal round.

The Southern Conference has three teams teams in the eight-team mix, including a second meeting this year of league rivals Georgia Southern (11-1), a two-time national champion and the home team, and Appalachian State (9-3).

Further, Southern co-champion Furman (10-2) hosts unbeaten Lehigh (11-0).

Top-seeded Montana (12-1), which lost to Georgia Southern, 27-25, in last year's championship game, hopes to move one step closer to a possible rematch when it welcomes Sam Houston State (10-2) to Missoula.

In Saturday's other quarterfinal, Maine (9-2) visits Northern Iowa (10-2), which upset No. 4 Eastern Illinois, 49-43, in the first round last week. Eastern Illinois was the only one of the top four seeds to fall in the opening round.

A Furman victory this weekend guarantees a Southern Conference

team in the finals in two weeks as the Paladins would face the Georgia Southern-Appalachian State winner in next week's semifinals.

Georgia Southern overcame a slow start last weekend to defeat Florida A&M, 60-35. The Golden Eagles scored 33 unanswered points after falling behind, 33-27, early in the third quarter.

Adrian Peterson, the all-time rushing leader in Division I-AA, ran for 153 yards and two touchdowns for Georgia Southern, the 53rd time in 55 career games he surpassed the 100-yard mark.

The Golden Eagles stretched their home winning streak to 38 games, including 26 straight playoff wins in Statesboro.

Appalachian State will be looking to avenge a 27-18 home loss to Georgia Southern on Oct. 13. Despite the loss, the Mountaineers held Peterson to 78 yards, ending his string of consecutive 100-yard games at 48.

Jimmy Watkins ran for 216 yards and four touchdowns last week as Appalachian State advanced with a 40-27 first-round victory over William & Mary.

Furman barely made it out of the first round, rallying for a 24-20 triumph over Western Kentucky on Al Means' 19-yard touchdown run with 3:07 remaining.

The Paladins erased a 20-7 deficit in the third quarter, staging their biggest comeback since 1996. Furman had lost its previous two first-round playoff games at home in 1999 and 2000.

Lehigh, the only unbeaten in the field, posted a dramatic 27-24 overtime victory over Hofstra. The Engineers tied it on Luke Giannello's four-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Pugh with 19 seconds left in regulation, then won it on Brian Kelley's 24-yard field goal in overtime.

For more than a half, Montana looked nothing like a top seed, but the Grizzlies got their act together in time and advanced with a 28-19 victory over Northwestern State. Montana trailed,13-0, at halftime.

Grizzlies Coach Joe Glenn will have to make a decision at quarterback. Backup Brandon Neill sparked Montana in the second half last week after starter John Edwards was benched. Edwards completed just 3-of-7 passes and fumbled twice in the first half.

Sam Houston State also advanced in dramatic fashion, defeating Northern Arizona, 34-31, on Alex St. Peter's 20-yard field goal as time expired.

Maine, making just its fourth postseason appearance, joined Northern Iowa as the only road teams to win last week. The Black Bears recorded a 14-10 win over McNeese State.

The Montana-Sam Houston State winner will face the Maine-Northern Iowa survivor in the other semifinal.

Next week's games also will be at campus sites, leading to thenational title game on Dec. 21 at Finley Stadium/DavenportField in Chattanooga, Tenn.

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© 2001 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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