Here are some news and notes in advance of South Dakota State hosting Eastern Illinois in the first round of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs on Saturday. I’ll have live coverage starting at 1:30 p.m.:
One paragraph in the Panthers game notes tells you all you need to know about their fast-break offense, which coach Dino Babers calls the junior varsity version of Baylor, his former school:
Eastern Illinois ranks second from the bottom of the FCS in time of possession with just over 24 minutes per game. EIU is seventh in the nation in scoring offense at 38.9 points per game and second with 938 total plays. Those numbers equal EIU scoring 1.6 points per minute or a touchdown ever 4 minutes. EIU is running 3.7 plays every minute and 85 plays per game. EIU’s longest scoring drive this season was 4:16 at Illinois State. EIU has 42 scoring drives of less than 2-minutes this season and only six that have lasted longer than 3 minutes.
EIU finished just 2-9 last season and was picked eighth out of nine teams in the preseason Ohio Valley Conference poll. But third-year starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo thinks that the team has explosive offensive talent all along, it just wasn’t being put to good use. Plus, star WR Erik Lora missed all of 2011 due to injury. The junior has an FCS record 124 catches this season and is one of three Panthers with more catches than anybody on the Jacks roster.
Both teams are minus in season turnover margin, the difference being that EIU games have featured 54 turnovers, while SDSU games have featured 40. Plus, the Panthers have been called for 95 penalties. Those two totals seem to indicate that they play fast and loose for better and for worse.
EIU dropped a 48-30 decision at Central Arkansas in its regular-season finale, totaling just 19:23 in time of possession and failing to gain a first down in the first 21 minutes of the second half. But Babers cautioned against reading too much into that, saying that he was trying out some different ideas given that both teams were already locked into playoff spots. He even tried two onside kicks, one in each half.
SDSU coach John Stiegelmeier hopes that his players used an extended break from school to watch more film than usual, although that can’t be mandated per NCAA rules. He also said that reserve LB R.C. Kilgore returned to practice this week after missing several weeks due to a knee injury, and that starting OL Josh Kage underwent surgery to repair a season-ending knee injury.
Jacks LB Ross Shafrath said that EIU runs plenty of quick passes and receiver screens, but is apt to set up the deep ball. He also noted that the key to playing against pace is to get lined up and get the call from the sideline as quickly as possible.
“Teams always have some kind of threat for us,” he said. “We just look at it as another game and another opportunity to get better.”
Babers on the Jacks: “We’ve got our hands full. They like to run the football, they’re big, they’re strong, they’re massive. We’re going to just try to do the best we can out there in chilly South Dakota.”
For as good as SDSU kicker Justin Syrovatka has been, making eight in a row, EIU counterpart Cameron Berra is 11 of 12 this season and 5 of 5 from 40 or more.
While the Jacks have never won a playoff game in their history, the Panthers have lost nine in a row dating to 1989. Seven of those defeats have been against teams from the Missouri Valley Football Conference. Also, their league - the Ohio Valley Conference - hasn’t won a playoff game since 2000.
Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.