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Numbers Never Lie: Ground game the key to first-round success

2:36 PM, Nov 25, 2012   |    comments
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Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - There's an common recipe for success that teams strive for when they reach the FCS playoffs.

It doesn't matter what conference one comes from, how much experience one has or sometimes even the type of offense run by a team.

Everyone wants to control the line of scrimmage with their run game.

As the 2012 season entered the first round of the FCS playoffs, four teams which survived to the next round all rushed for at least 200 yards and set the tone on the ground.

Wagner gained 245 rushing yards in its 31-20 victory over Colgate, while running back Dominique Williams and quarterback Nick Doscher rushed for 106 and 91 yards, respectively, scored one touchdown each and averaged five yards per carry.

South Dakota State jumped out of the gates with 580 yards of offense - 434 of which came on the ground - in a convincing 58-10 victory over pass-heavy Eastern Illinois. Running back Zach Zenner set a school record with 295 rushing yards, scoring three touchdowns, and counterpart Reggie Gandy rushed for 151 yards and two touchdowns. The team averaged 8.2 yards per rush.

Without the FCS' leader in passing efficiency (quarterback Kyle Essington), Stony Brook didn't need to put the ball in the air. SBU passed for 37 yards and rushed for 263. The dynamic one-two running back punch of Miguel Maysonet and Marcus Coker should give the team's next opponent, Montana State, a lot of problems.

Coastal Carolina's priority moving forward should be to cross the 200-yard rushing mark because the team has won six games in a row and accomplished that feat in every win. The Chanticleers rushed for 202 yards on 45 carries in their 24-14 playoff victory at Bethune-Cookman.

When it comes to postseason football, a team's ability to run the ball is probably one of the most important factors.

For all the promise in its teams, some things can never be ignored.

Whether it be scores, statistics or standout performances, the numbers never lie.

Here are some important figures from Week 13 of the 2012 FCS season that should not be overlooked:

In Wagner's 31-20 victory over Colgate, a season-high 3,032 fans witnessed the Seahawks record the Northeast Conference's first-ever FCS playoff win. Wagner has won nine straight games after starting the season with an 0-3 record, and Doscher has thrown 210 consecutive passes without an interception. His only interception came in Week 1 versus FBS Florida Atlantic. The Seahawks also have just one turnover in their last 11 games.

Colgate came into its FCS playoff first-round matchup at Wagner averaging 294 rushing yards and 41 points per game, good nationally for No. 5 and No. 3, respectively, in the regular season. However, the Raiders were limited to just 296 yards of offense and 177 rushing yards in their 31-20 loss. Quarterback Gavin McCarney accounted for all five of Colgate's turnovers, losing three fumbles and throwing two interceptions.

In South Dakota State's 58-10 victory over Eastern Illinois, Zenner rushed for a school-record 295 yards and a career-high three touchdowns. Through 12 games this season, Zenner leads the FCS in rushing with 166 yards per game. He's averaging seven yards per carry and is two yards shy of the 2,000-yard mark. He's rushed for over 100 yards nine times and over 200 yards three times.

Eastern Illinois receiver Erik Lora finished his amazing season with 12 catches for 133 yards and one touchdown in the loss at SDSU. He finished his junior campaign with 136 receptions, which is an FCS single-season record. He also totaled 1,664 receiving yards in 12 games.

In Stony Brook's 20-10 home playoff victory versus Villanova, the Seawolves passed for just 37 yards on 3-of-6 attempts, but they dominated the line of scrimmage, rushing for 263 yards. Maysonet and Coker accounted for 54 carries and 267 rushing yards, while Maysonet scored the team's only two touchdowns and averaged 6.4 yards per carry.

Southern University quarterback Dray Joseph completed 22-of-37 passes for 284 yards and five touchdowns in the Jaguars' 38-33 victory over rival Grambling State in the XXXIX Bayou Classic. It was the team's first win in the series since 2007 and Joseph finished the season with 25 touchdowns versus seven interceptions in 11 games.

Grambling State rushed for a mere 54 yards on 28 attempts, for an average of 1.9 yards per carry, in the loss to Southern. In 11 games this year, the Tigers rank 110th in the FCS with 98.7 rushing yards per contest.

Coastal Carolina picked up the program's first FCS playoff victory in three previous appearances with a 24-14 win at Bethune-Cookman. The Chanticleers' improving run attack totaled 202 yards on the ground, and the team has now gone over the 200-yard rushing mark in six straight wins.

Tuskegee now leads the Turkey Day Classic series with Alabama State, 49-32-3, after a hard-fought 27-25 victory. Running back Derrick Washington ran for 95 yards and one touchdown, passed for 57 yards on a halfback option and had three catches for 32 yards as the Golden Tigers improved to 10-1. ASU quarterback Greg Jenkins rushed for 106 yards and passed for 147, but the Hornets lost in their first game at their new ASU Stadium.

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