There will be some interesting matchups in the second round of the FCS playoffs on Saturday, but the one I will be streaming on my smartphone will be Old Dominion versus Coastal Carolina.
I want to see ODU quarterback Taylor Heinicke throw the ball … again and again and again. Not to downplay the incredible ground games of teams like Georgia Southern, Wofford and Cal Poly, but in a playoff field laden with run-oriented offenses, I miss the thrill of the passing game.
ODU and Heinicke will be sure not to let me down. Head coach Bobby Wilder runs an offense that leads the nation in total yards per game with 538.27 and ranks second in scoring at almost 45 points per game.
“Old Dominion is an offensive juggernaut,” Coastal Carolina head coach Joe Moglia said. “They do a phenomenal job throwing the ball. There is no offensive category where they are not one of the leaders. They really have the ability to move the ball.”
Heinicke paces the nation with 4,158 passing yards, 378.00 passing yards per game, 35 touchdown passes and in total offense with 412.27 yards per game.
Of the 16 remaining teams in the playoffs, Appalachian State quarterback Jamal Jackson is the closest to Heinicke in terms of passing yards at 264.09 – more than 100 yards below the first-place average.
Remember back on Sept. 21 when Heinicke set the NCAA Division I record with 730 passing yards, connecting on 55-for-79 passes and five touchdowns against New Hampshire (a team that is making its ninth consecutive playoff appearance)? I’m still shaking my head after that one.
So, in a world where 10 of the 16 remaining FCS playoff teams rank in the top 25 in total rushing offense, including eight in the top 13 and five of the top six – 1. Georgia Southern, 2. Wofford, 3. Cal Poly, 5. Stony Brook and 6. Sam Houston State – I am looking forward to Heinicke tossing the ball about 45 times to his army of Monarch receivers.
While the Monarchs’ passing game is strong, that’s not to say ODU can’t run the football. They can and do. The Monarchs are averaging more than 156 yards per game on the ground, including 377 rushing yards and eight touchdowns this season from Heinicke.
“He does a great job of making plays with his legs – not by running to gain yardage but getting himself out of trouble in the pocket,” Moglia said. “They do a great job passing the ball, and because they do that, it gives them flexibility in the running game.”
Coastal Carolina knows it will have its hands full with ODU’s offense, but the Chanticleers are on a roll entering this weekend’s contest. After a four-game losing streak that concluded against Stony Brook on Oct. 13, the Chanticleers have reeled off six consecutive victories, outscoring foes by a 27-point margin and rushing for at least 200 yards during the stretch.
ODU will host Coastal Carolina on Saturday at 2 p.m. ET. All FCS playoff second round games will be broadcasted live on ESPN3.
• The Kansas women’s volleyball squad will host the NCAA tournament first and second rounds for the first time in school history as the No. 11 seed when action gets under way Thursday. KU compiled a 25-6 overall record and a 12-4 mark in a third-place Big 12 finish — marking the first time since 1991 the Jayhawks have won 25 matches and head coach Ray Bechard was named the league’s coach of the year as he led his squad to the program’s first NCAA tournament berth since 2005. Kansas will face Cleveland State on Friday, while Wichita State and Arkansas will meet in the sub-regional’s other opening contest. The two winners will meet on Saturday.
• The Division II Women’s Volleyball Central Region is one of the strongest in the nation once again this year as the eight-team field features eight of the top 16 squads in the latest national rankings, including the top five teams in the AVCA Division II Top 25. No. 1 Concordia-St. Paul – the five-time defending NCAA champion – will serve as the regional host. No. 2 Southwest Minnesota State, No.3 Nebraska-Kearney, No. 4 Washburn, No. 5 Minnesota-Duluth, No. 8 Central Missouri, No. 13 Truman and No. 16 Wayne State complete the bracket. Concordia-St. Paul has won 30 consecutive matches in the NCAA tournament dating back to the 2006 regional final. The Golden Bears have won seven of the last nine regional titles.
• When Carson-Newman and Valdosta State meet up in the NCAA Division II football quarterfinals on Saturday, it will be the sixth playoff meeting between the two programs. The Blazers have ended two of Carson-Newman’s last three trips to the postseason with wins in 2004 and 2008, but the Eagles have been on a hot streak into the playoffs this season. Carson-Newman is riding a seven-game winning streak, and is averaging 42 points, 504 yards and 414 rushing yards per game during the stretch.
• Wesley heads to Mary Hardin-Baylor for a rematch of the Wolverines’ regular season loss to the Crusaders (32-25) in the NCAA Division III football quarterfinals on Saturday. Wesley hosted the first contest between the two heavyweights in which UMHB fended off the Wolverines in the closing seconds to secure the victory. The two teams are meeting for the eighth time in series history, and for the third consecutive season in the NCAA quarterfinals. Wesley has ended UMHB’s season in each of the last two years.
• Five of the six NCAA soccer champions will be crowned this weekend highlighted by the Division I Women’s College Cup, which starts Friday in San Diego, Calif. Stanford, the defending national champion, will tangle with North Carolina – winner of 20 national titles. The two will face each other in the second semifinal. The other half of the semis will feature Florida State taking on Penn State as both teams are looking for their NCAA first title.
• The West Florida women’s soccer team will play in the NCAA Division II Championship for the third time in the last five years, but the Argonauts are still seeking their first title. In the quarterfinals, the Argos avenged the only loss of the season, knocking off top-ranked Armstrong Atlantic 1-0 on Nov. 18. UWF carries an 11-game winning streak heading into the semifinals against defending NCAA champions Saint Rose on Thursday. The Argos have outscored opponents 36-3 and posted nine shutouts during the 11-game span.
• Two first-timers will meet in the Division II men’s soccer semifinals on Thursday as Saginaw Valley State meets Simon Fraser in Evans, Ga. SVSU is riding a 13-game unbeaten streak, while Simon Fraser is 14-0-1 in its last 15 contests. Simon Fraser is looking to become the first Canadian school to win an NCAA title. Lynn, last year’s runner-up, is making its sixth semifinal appearance, while Mercyhurst is back for the first time since 2002.
• Sam Houston State will be playing at home for only the fourth time this season as the Bearkats are hoping to have as much success as they did in their three previous home games in which they outscored foes 169-17. While Cal Poly (9-2) looks to be a solid opponent, the Bearkats are used to tough competition, going on the road to face FBS opponents Baylor and Texas A&M earlier this season. Sam Houston State hosted three FCS playoff games last season, beating Stony Brook, Montana State and Montana en route to a national championship game appearance.
• No. 1 Minnesota women’s hockey brings a 24-game winning streak into a battle with one of its biggest rivals when the Gophers host No. 10 Wisconsin for a two-game series beginning Saturday. The two teams met in last year’s NCAA Championship, which the Gophers won 4-2. Minnesota is the lone Division I women’s hockey team in the nation without a loss this season as the Gophers own a 16-0-0 record. They lead the nation with a 6.12 scoring average, and a 0.62 goals against average.
• The Western Kentucky women’s volleyball team carries a 24-match winning streak into the NCAA tournament. The Lady Toppers have compiled a 72-5 mark in sets played, and won 59 of their last 60 sets, during the streak. WKU (32-3) is making its third consecutive appearance after posting a perfect record against Sun Belt Conference foes this year. Its three losses came to a trio of NCAA tournament qualifiers – No. 1 Penn State, No. 10 Louisville and Ohio State. The Lady Toppers travel to Stanford for sub-regional play where they will face Loyola Marymount in first round action on Friday.
“We have been preparing this whole year for this moment, and I think we are all ready for it,” WKU senior Jordyn Skinner said on the team looking to get past the first match. “We are mentally and physically prepared, and I think it is just going to be a different year this year for us. We are all excited.”
• The third round of the NCAA Division I men’s soccer championship had fans holding their collective breaths with one exception last Sunday. Maryland was the lone team of the eight survivors to win by more than a one-goal margin in the last round of action, beating Coastal Carolina by a score of 5-1. Five of the contests were decided by one goal, while two others – Georgetown and Creighton — forced a winner by penalty kicks. Four third-round games went into overtime.
The Terps, who boast the nation’s leading offense with 2.59 goals per game, not only found the goal five times, but the Maryland backline held the Chanticleers to one goal. Coastal Carolina entered the contest with a nation’s best 62 goals on the season.
Maryland will host Louisville in the NCAA quarterfinals – a team which it beat 3-0 to open the season. The two squads also met in the third round of last year’s NCAA tournament with Louisville advancing with a 4-2 victory.
• Zac Daniels may not be on Williams men’s soccer official roster, but he is definitely a member of the team. In October, the 11-year-old from Williamstown, Mass., was drafted by the Ephs as a part of the Team IMPACT program — a non-profit organization that enhances the lives of children with life-threatening diseases by matching them with college athletics teams, providing an extended support network from which both the children and the teams gain inspiration and perspective.
Daniels was born with a rare life-threatening birth defect that has left him with multiple chronic health conditions and years of specialists, tests, procedures and medications as a way of life.
“Zac has been one of the highlights of our season,” senior Matt Ratajczak said. “We are able to draw strength from one another because of his presence in our team huddles, meetings and practices. He is way tougher than any guy on our team and we all know it.”
Daniels, and his mother Melanie, will be traveling to NCAA Championship in San Antonio, Texas, to watch Williams compete thanks to unsolicited private donations. Williams will face Ohio Northern on Friday, and the winner between Messiah and Loras on Saturday if the Ephs advance.
“We see Zac as one of guys on the team, Coach [Mike] Russo sees it that way, and most importantly, Zac sees it that way,” senior Peter Christman said. “We as a team fully expected that Zac would come with us to the [NCAA Championship] in San Antonio. Of course, making it happen behind the scenes was a process that involved a great deal of hard work and generosity. I don’t know exactly whom to thank but I know that as a team we are excited to have Zac come with us.”
• Creighton has three teams ranked in the top 25 of its respective polls — No. 8 in men’s soccer, No. 11 in men’s basketball and No. 21 in volleyball. It’s the first time the Bluejays have ever accomplished the feat. Since Oct. 1, Creighton’s three ranked teams have combined to post a 32-0-1 record. The only tie came in men’s soccer against Akron (1-1) last Sunday, although the Bluejays advanced on penalty kicks and will face Connecticut in the NCAA quarterfinals on Dec. 2. The volleyball team begins NCAA postseason action against Marquette on Friday at Minnesota’s sub-regional, while men’s basketball hosts Saint Joseph’s on Saturday as the Bluejays look to improve on their 6-0 record.
Follow Amy Farnum on Twitter: @NCAA_Amy