Bob Eblen's National Column

December 6th, 2019 4:00pm

Bob Eblen's National Column

Last Saturday’s second round of the D2 playoffs didn’t have the overall drama that week one did as just two games remained close throughout. However, the one game that did grab everyone’s attention was top-ranked Valdosta State’s 38-35 loss to West Florida.

The loss ended VSU’s bid for a second straight national title along with a 25-game winning streak. The Blazers definitely had the talent to repeat, but you could kind of see this coming as VSU had some problems with offensive consistency over the last month of the season. Two bye weeks in November probably didn’t help the Blazers rediscover their form.

The inconsistency was on full display in this loss. VSU managed just seven points in the first 41 minutes of the game, then scored 28 points in the last 19 minutes (on drives of 75, 75, 81 and 81 yards) to take a brief 35-31 lead. UWF, however, drove the field to score the winning points with just six seconds on the clock.

Despite the loss, the future is still bright for VSU. The Blazers return quarterback Rogan Wells, who this week was named a finalist for the Harlon Hill trophy for a second straight season. Nine other All-GSC players will return, along with all key position players on offense and 12 of the top 15 tacklers on defense. The Blazers are a team poised to make a run again next year and this playoff loss might serve as a powerful motivator in the off-season.

Playoffs- Round Three

Super Region One Final

Notre Dame (12-1) at Slippery Rock (12-0)

These two teams met last year in the regional final as well, with NDC coming away with a 21-17 win. In that game the Falcons came up with three big stops of SRU drives that had advanced beyond the 50 yard-line. The difference last year as that the game was at NDC while SRU gets the advantage of playing at home this time around.

Many of the key players for both teams will be major factors again this year. The SRU defense will be tasked with trying to slowdown Jaleel McLaughlin, who rushed for 172 yards in the game last year and is once again the nation’s leading rusher with 2190 yards. The NDC defense will have to contend with Roland Rivers. The SRU quarterback leads the nation in both total offense and passing efficiency.

I think this game will be very similar to last year’s contest with a similar score. NDC is going to keep the ball in the hands of McLaughlin and try to keep the SRU offense on the sidelines. I think that tactic will keep the score down, but Rivers finds a way to make the play at the end that eluded his team last season. Slippery Rock 24 Notre Dame 21

Super Region Two Final

West Florida (10-2) at Lenoir-Rhyne (13-0)

In four seasons of having a football program, UWF has already advanced to the national championship game in 2017 and won six road playoff games, including last week’s upset of defending national champion Valdosta State. The Argonauts are now a veteran team, with 37 players on the roster in at least their fourth year of college football. There are also 16 D-I transfers on the team.

LRU also has plenty of recent playoff experience- this is the program’s fifth playoff appearance in the last eight years. The Bears reached the regional final last season and the national championship game in 2013.

I think this game will be another great one. UWF’s physicality and talent at the skill positions will be a problem for the Bear defense. UWF’s unique rushing attack will challenge an Argonaut defense that hasn’t seen anything quite like it. Lenoir-Rhyne 31 West Florida 28

Super Region Three Final

Northwest Missouri (12-1) at Ferris State (11-0)

The Bearcats and Bulldogs met last season in the playoffs with FSU coming away with a 27-21 win in a game that was much closer than it probably should have been due to some missed scoring opportunities on the part of FSU.

As I mentioned at the start of the playoffs, FSU will be without 2018 Harlon Hill quarterback Jayru Campbell for the rest of the season. That leaves the offense in the very capable hands of senior Travis Russell, who has had significant playing time over the past two seasons. He led the Bulldogs to the win over Northwest last season.

I think the Bearcats are a talented, but somewhat young and inconsistent team. They could pull the upset here with a big performance from quarterback Braden Wright, but I think FSU has a little more talent and experience on both sides of the ball. Ferris State 30 Northwest Missouri State 23

Super Region Four Final

Texas A&M-Commerce (10-2) at Minnesota State (12-0)

The Lions are now 6-1 in road playoff games over the past three seasons, with three of those wins coming in the state of Minnesota, including a 31-21 win at MSU in the 2017 regional final. This is not a team that will be affected by playing on the road or the potentially harsh winter conditions.

Two years ago when TAMUC won this match up they did so because they were able to hold the Maverick running game in check, which forced MSU to throw the ball more than they are comfortable. The same formula could potentially work again, but there is a problem: this MSU team and offensive line are better this time around. Don’t get me wrong, I feel that TAMUC will be in this game for four quarters, but I like the Mavericks to prevail at home. Minnesota State 27 Texas A&M commerce 17  

Mineral Water Bowl

Nebraska-Kearney (6-5) vs Winona State (8-3)

WSU is very good on special teams and is plus 12 in turnover margin this fall. However, the way to beat UNK is by throwing the football down the field and WSU is not that type of team. The Warriors are very good defensively but may have trouble stopping a Loper rushing attack that averaged 330 yards per game. Nebraska-Kearney 27 Winona State 20

Heritage Bowl

Southern Arkansas (8-3) vs Eastern New Mexico (7-4)

SAU has been productive at times offensively this year. The question is will the Muleriders have enough opportunities to make things happen while playing against an ENMU team that averages 370 yards per game on the ground? Eastern New Mexico 31 Southern Arkansas 23

America’s Crossroads Bowl

Truman State (9-2) vs Ohio Dominican (7-2)

Neither one of these teams is real dominant defensively, so this game will probably come down to turnovers and which team can be more efficient offensively in the red zone. Truman State 24 Ohio Dominican 19