It’ll be a good one if you like passing. Rushing too.
At noon Saturday in Norfolk, Va., the nation’s leading passing offense will face off with the nation’s leading rushing attack when Old Dominion and Georgia Southern meet in the quarterfinals of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.
Old Dominion (11-1) averages 46 points and 392 passing yards per game, while the Eagles (9-3) rush for 393 and score 35 points per game.
“It is what it is,” GSU coach Jeff Monken said. “Everybody’s got their way to skin a cat, and there’s a lot of ways to do it. Some teams value being very balanced. For us it’s running the ball. For other people it’s throwing it all the time.”
Taylor Heinike, ODU’s sophomore quarterback, is 209 passing yards away from setting the FCS single-season record. The Eagles met him in 2011 in a 55-48, first-round win at Paulson Stadium.
“They specialize in one area, and that’s passing,” senior safety J.J. Wilcox said. “When you specialize in one area and have great players like they do, it shows. We have to be in the right place at the right time — no missed assignments. Hopefully we’ll come away with a win.”
A big stage
The teams will face off at noon Saturday, and ESPN will televise the game nationally.
It will be the first nationally-televised game for the Eagles this season.
“It gives you a rush,” Wilcox said. “It makes you want to show everybody what you’ve been working on all summer.”
A large crowd is also expected, as the Monarchs have sold out all 27 games ever to be played in the 20,068-seat Foreman Field.
“They have a great atmosphere up there,” said GSU quarterback Jerick McKinnon, who rushed for 316 yards and two touchdowns in Saturday’s 24-16 win over Central Arkansas in the first round. “We already know that. We’ve just got to stay in focus, stay in tune.”
Monken isn’t worried about television coverage or a sold-out stadium.
“It’s a big game regardless of how many people show up or who watches it on TV if it’s on TV,” Monken said. “It’s a great opportunity for our guys to be in a tournament with only eight teams left, and a chance to be in the final four. I would think that’s motivation enough.”
A bigger stage
Adrian Peterson, the all-time leading rusher in GSU and FCS/Division I-AA history, was the only player in Eagles’ history to receive an invitation to the NCAA Senior Bowl -— a showcase for the nation’s top college prospects — until now.
Wilcox found out Monday that he became the second GSU player to receive an invitation.
“It’s a great showcase to be able to show off Georgia Southern to the nation. It’s a blessing,” said Wilcox, who was moved to safety early in 2012 after playing wide receiver and running back for most of his career. “I was in the right spot at the right time. The coaches put me in a great position, and it’s a blessing and a privilege just to be able to play.”
The 2013 Senior Bowl takes place on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013 and will air on the NFL Network.
Back in the mix
After serving a one-game suspension last week for disciplinary reasons, GSU cornerback Valdon Cooper will return to action Saturday against Old Dominion.
Cooper started 10 of 11 games during the regular season and is tied for the team lead in interceptions with two.
Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.