All the talk about the Georgia Southern football team concerns its triple-option offense, complete with fakes, handoffs, quarterback keepers and pitches to speedy running backs.

It’s not an offense that’s familiar to the University of Maine.

The Black Bears will be introduced face-to-face to the Eagles at 2 p.m. today when third-ranked Georgia Southern (10-2) meets 13th-ranked Maine (9-3) in an NCAA playoff quarterfinal at Paulson Stadium in Statesboro, Ga.

The Eagles average 440 yards per game, 332 on the ground. They ran for 302 yards against Alabama three weeks ago.

“The biggest challenge is that we haven’t seen it all season long,” said Maine safety Trevor Coston. “Being able to recognize the play that is coming is the tricky part.”

Well, that’s one of the challenges. After recognizing the play, you have to stop it.

That’s something Old Dominion couldn’t do last week in the playoffs. The Monarchs lost in a shootout with Georgia Southern 55-48 as the Eagles amassed 607 yards.

“We just didn’t tackle well,” Old Dominion Coach Bob Wilder said in his postgame press conference last Saturday. “We were in position to make tackles and we didn’t do it.

“We couldn’t stop them. It was a helpless feeling,”

Can Maine do a better job?

The Black Bears are coming off a dominant performance against Appalachian State, holding the Mountaineers to 3 yards rushing — for the game.

“We felt real great going in,” Coston said. “Had a chip on our shoulder — people saying we didn’t have the athletes to match up with them.”

Against Georgia Southern, “you have to be real disciplined,” Coston said. “You have to be where you’re supposed to be.”

During the regular season, Maine ranked fourth in its league in rushing yards allowed (145), one yard behind Old Dominion, ranked third.

Georgia Southern’s offense revolves around the decision-making of quarterback Jaybo Shaw and a stable of backs, led by freshman Dominique Swope (153 yards against. Alabama, 255 yards last week).

Georgia Southern’s defense may be suspect, given that it gave up so much against Old Dominion. But the Eagles defend the run pretty well (143 yards allowed per game), and are so-so against the pass (211 yards).

Maine may want to use its ground game to control the clock and keep the ball out of Georgia Southern’s hands.

“You can run the ball (to keep possession) but you’ve got to be successful,” said Maine Coach Jack Cosgrove.

To run, Maine has Pushaun Brown and backup David Hood. Both can break for big yardage.

But the key to the Black Bears remains quarterback Warren Smith, who averages 241 passing yards per game. If he can avoid turnovers and keep Maine in possession, the Black Bears have a chance.

“It’s going to have to take a comprehensive approach. It involves your offense, defense and special-teams plan,” Cosgrove said. “If you go in and think you’re just going to defend them, it could be a long day.”

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at:

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