WHEN MAINE HAS THE BALL: As always, Maine will to try to establish the run first with redshirt freshman Ramon Jefferson, who is just 28 yards away from 1,000 on the season. A healthy Joe Fitzpatrick (442 rushing yards) brings balance to the running game. But Maine’s offense also relies on explosive plays from its skill players. Junior WR Earnest Edwards has scored a touchdown in each of the last six games, all wins by Maine. Getting him the ball will be crucial. Sophomore QB Chris Ferguson spreads the ball around, with five different players with at least 30 catches. Look for senior WR Micah Wright to step up in this game and for senior TE Drew Belcher to be heavily involved.

WHEN EASTERN WASHINGTON HAS THE BALL: The Eagles do just about everything well. They’re the only FCS team to rank in the top 25 in total offense (538.3 yards, second), rushing offense (266.6, 10th) and passing offense (271.7, 22nd). It all starts with sophomore QB Eric Barriere, who took over for injured starter Gage Gubrud in the sixth game of the season. He’s a dual threat, averaging 6.6 yards a run while throwing for 1,900 yards and 17 TDs. He’s most dangerous when he scrambles in the backfield, with his ability to run and find open receivers. Senior Nsimba Webster leads the Eagles with 71 catches for 1,099 yards and seven touchdowns. But the Eagles like to run the ball. Five running backs average at least 6.4 yards per carry, led by senior Sam McPherson, who has rushed for 1,288 yards and 12 TDs.

KEY STAT: 2.11. That’s the average yards per rush Maine has allowed this year, tops in FCS. EWU averages 6.7 yards per rush, second in FCS.

OUTLOOK: The game will come down to Maine’s defense, as usual. This will be the most potent offense the Black Bears have faced. Maine’s defense ranks first against the run and ninth overall. The front seven dominated Weber State last week but will face a different challenge – containing Barriere, whose running ability is impressive and dangerous. That means the secondary, which had four interceptions last week, will be in scramble mode all game, trying to stick to receivers and hoping that Barriere doesn’t break a long run. Look for CB Manny Patterson, who leads the nation with 24 passes defended, to cover Webster man-to-man. Eastern Washington’s defense, meanwhile, isn’t as dominant but does force turnovers, with 19 in the last six games. The Eagles can be susceptible to the run, and that’s what Maine likes to establish. Look for Maine to try to control the ball and keep it away from Eastern Washington’s offense.

OF NOTE: This is Maine’s first appearance in the national semifinals; Eastern Washington is making its sixth appearance in the semifinals, fourth since the Eagles won the 2010 national title. … The teams have one common opponent – Weber State. Maine defeated the Wildcats, 23-18; Eastern Washington lost to Weber State, 14-6. … Maine is 9-0 when rushing for more than 100 yards and is 7-0 against ranked opponents. … Maine will travel 3,003 miles to play this game, the second-longest trip in school history. The Black Bears played at Hawaii in 1990. … Both teams have won six in a row. … The winner goes to the FCS championship game in Frisco, Texas, on Jan. 5 against the winner of Friday’s North Dakota State-South Dakota State game.


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