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Georgia Southern beats Maine, reaches FCS semis

Georgia Southern quarterback Jaybo Shaw, center, ran for two touchdowns and threw for another on Saturday.

Georgia Southern quarterback Jaybo Shaw, center, ran for two touchdowns and threw for another on Saturday.

STATESBORO — Quarterback Jaybo Shaw ran for two touchdowns and threw for another Saturday to lead Georgia Southern to a 35-23 win over Maine in the Football Championship Subdivision quarterfinals.

The Eagles (11-2), who are seeking their seventh national championship, will play in the semifinals for the second straight year next Saturday when they travel to North Dakota State, a 24-0 winner over Lehigh.

Georgia Southern had 476 yards total offense, 360 rushing, in dispatching the Bears (9-4). It was the third time Georgia Southern and Maine have met in the playoffs, and the Eagles have won all three.

“Our defense made some big plays,” Georgia Southern coach Jeff Monken said.

“They took a lot of criticism this past week, including some from me, but they gave up only 23 points, seven of those on a kickoff return, against a really good offensive team.”

J.J. Wilcox led Georgia Southern in rushing with 99 yards and he scored touchdowns on runs of 2 and 7 yards. Shaw scored on runs of 2 and 1 yards, and completed 7 of 8 passes for 116 yards.

Maine quarterback Warren Smith completed 15 of 29 passes for 229 yards and two touchdowns, but was intercepted three times. Jerrick McKinnon had two interceptions for Georgia Southern.

The Eagles, who jumped out to a 14-0 lead and led 21-10 at the half, had the ball for 42:24. Maine ran only nine plays in the first half.

Georgia Southern scored on its opening drive and made it 14-0 when McKinnon picked off Smith on Maine’s second play of the game.

After Wilcox scored on a 2-yard run, Roosevelt Brown answered for Maine with a 91-yard kickoff return.

“Although we had the ball for only nine plays we were still in it at the half,” Maine coach Jack Cosgrove said. “We never felt we were out of it until that third interception.”

The Black Bears scored on the opening drive of the second half to trim the deficit to 21-17, but Georgia Southern answered with a 56-yard scoring drive and got an interception by Darious Eubanks on the Bears’ ensuing possession, putting the Eagles at the Maine 27.

Two plays later, Shaw found a wide-open Kentrellis Showers in the end zone to make it 35-17 with 7:32 to play.

Although the Black Bears answered with an 80-yard touchdown drive, the deficit was too much to overcome.

After giving up 577 yards and 48 points to Old Dominion last week, Georgia Southern held Maine to 295 yards, only 66 rushing.