Numbers Never Lie: Dependability, consistency push on to semifinals

There's certainly going to be some familiarity in the FCS national semifinals next weekend.

For the third straight season, Georgia Southern and third-year coach Jeff Monken move onto the "final four." And for the second straight year, the Eagles have to travel to North Dakota State's Fargodome and the FCS' top- ranked defense.

Sam Houston State took care of business Friday night in Montana and was rewarded with its second straight trip to the semifinals. The Bearkats, however, must travel back into Big Sky country to play Eastern Washington.

SHSU and EWU both have explosive offenses and playmakers who can change a game at any moment. The Bearkats rank 10th in the FCS in total offense with 460 yards per game and the Eagles rank 19th, averaging 435 yards per game.

GSU and NDSU might not have the sexiest offenses, but both set the tone on ground and take time off the clock. The Bison rank first in the FCS in time of possession, while Georgia Southern ranks sixth.

With only four teams remaining on the quest for an FCS national title, it's important to remember how exactly they got to this point.

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 15 of the 2012 FCS season that should not be overlooked:

North Dakota State linebacker Grant Olson registered 29 tackles - six solo, 23 assisted - in his team's 14-7 playoff victory versus Wofford. Not only did he set a school record, topping the previous mark of 26 tackles set in 1989, but it's also the highest single-game total in the FCS this season.

The Bison have totaled just 205 passing yards in their last two playoff contests. Quarterback Brock Jensen threw for 110 yards against South Dakota State in the second round and 95 yards against Wofford in the quarterfinals. Through 13 games, the team is averaging 175 passing yards per contest.

Georgia Southern rushed for 602 yards, scored seven rushing touchdowns and averaged 8.5 yards per carry in its 49-35 victory over Old Dominion.

Slot back Dominique Swope rushed for 186 yards and two touchdowns and quarterback Jerick McKinnon rushed for 171 yards and four touchdowns. Three of McKinnon's touchdowns came in the fourth quarter, when the Eagles outscored ODU, 28-0.

Old Dominion signal-caller Taylor Heinicke broke two FCS single-season records in his team's quarterfinal loss Saturday. The sophomore threw for 421 yards and finished the season with 5,076 yards, passing Steve McNair's 1994 single- season mark of 4,863 yards. Heinicke also set a new FCS single-season completions record with 398, topping Villanova quarterback Brett Gordon's 385 set in 1992.

Georgia Southern and Old Dominion combined for 1,166 yards of total offense. The Eagles outrushed the Monarchs by 489 yards, but the Monarchs outpassed the Eagles by 391 yards.

In Sam Houston State's 34-16 victory over Montana State, quarterback Brian Bell completed 11 of his 21 attempts for 254 yards and three touchdowns. The Bearkats averaged 23.1 yards per reception. Trey Diller had three receptions for 104 yards and one touchdown, and Chance Nelson caught five passes for 89 yards and two touchdowns. That's an average of 34 and 17 yards, respectively.

Eastern Washington signal-caller Kyle Padron passed for 358 yards and a school-record six touchdowns in the Eagles' 51-35 quarterfinal victory versus Illinois State.

Receiver Brandon Kaufman had nine receptions for 191 yards and three touchdowns, and in the process, broke school and Big Sky Conference single- season records for receiving yards. He now has 1,635 yards and 13 touchdowns in 13 games this season.

Illinois State outgained EWU, 520-478, and held the Eagles to 109 rushing yards, but turned the ball over three times. Receivers Tyrone Walker and Lechein Neblett each crossed the 100-yard receiving mark and accounted for 249 yards and two touchdowns in the loss.

Three of the four teams remaining in the FCS playoffs rank in the top six in the FCS in time of possession. They are No. 1 North Dakota State (35:14), No. 4 Sam Houston State (33:40) and No. 6 Georgia Southern (33:30).