Ga. Southern after third straight title

By United Press International   |   Nov. 30, 2001 at 8:47 AM
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Georgia Southern opens its quest for a third straight Division I-AA national championship and seventh in 16 years on Saturday when it hosts Florida A&M in a first-round playoff game.

The Eagles (10-1) also captured back-to-back titles in 1985-86 and 1989-90, but they never have won three in a row.

The 16-team Division I-AA tournament gets under way this weekend with eight opening-round games at campus sites.

Top-ranked Montana (10-1), which lost to Georgia Southern, 27-25, in last year's championship game, drew the No. 1 seed and entertains Northwestern State (8-3).

The national title game will be played on Dec. 21 at Finley Stadium/Davenport Field in Chattanooga, Tenn.

This will be the last postseason for Georgia Southern senior running back Adrian Peterson, the all-time leading rusher in Division I-AA with 6,559 yards. He surpassed the previous mark of 6,553 set by Sacramento State's Charles Roberts from 1997-2000.

Georgia Southern, the No. 2 seed making a record 13th appearance in the Division I-AA playoffs, boasts a 37-game home winning streak, including 25 straight in the postseason.

Georgia Southern and Florida A&M (7-3) also met in the first round of the 1997 playoffs with the Eagles posting a 57-37 victory.

Montana, which is making its record ninth straight playoff appearance, captured its only national championship in 1995 and also reached the finals in 1996.

Furman (9-2), a rival of Georgia Southern in the Southern Conference, and Eastern Illinois (9-1) round out the top-four seeds. This is the first year that only four teams are seeded. Furman hosts Western Kentucky (8-3) and Eastern Illinois welcomes Northern Iowa (9-2).

In other first-round matchups, Northern Arizona (8-3) meets Sam Houston State (9-2); Maine (8-2) takes on McNeese State (8-3); William & Mary (8-3) battles Appalachian State (8-3); and Hofstra (9-2) faces Lehigh (10-0), the only undefeated team in the field.

Grambling (9-1) and Ivy League league champion Harvard (9-0) are not participating in the playoffs.

Matchups were determined by geographic proximity, but teams from the same conference were not paired in the first round.

The field is made up of eight automatic qualifiers and eight at-large teams.

The automatic bids went to conference champions in the Atlantic 10, Mid-Eastern Athletic, Southern, Big Sky, Southland Football, Gateway Football and Ohio Valley Conferences, and the Patriot League.

The Southern Conference is the best represented with Georgia Southern, Furman and Appalachian State combining for 35 playoff bids and seven national titles.

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