Bryan Bennett made Sports Center, but the dream ended for him and the Southeastern Louisiana State as they fell 20-17 to New Hampshire in the quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs Saturday night at Strawberry Stadium in Hammond, Louisiana.
The former Duck quarterback’s wild, scrambling, touchdown pass to Marquis Fruge’ was the #1 highlight in ESPN’s Top Ten Plays, but the Lions were eliminated when Wildcat quarterback Sean Goldrich scored on a 2-yard keeper with 47 seconds to go in the game.
Bennett drove his team 80 yards in 14 plays to take a 17-14 lead with 5:12 left, throwing the miraculous td to Fruge’ on 4th and 5, but NH answered with an 80-yard drive of their own for the win (Kevin Jairaj, USA Today Sports Images).
With :43 seconds to work with, the former Crespi High star got the Lions to the visitors’ 43, 3rd and 3 with two seconds left. A running play went for a first down, but time ran out with SELU on the 35, no time to attempt a tying field goal. They’d missed from 37 yards in the first quarter, and another first period drive ended when Bennett was intercepted at the New Hampshire 8 on 4th and 14.
The junior quarterback led an 81-yard drive on the game’s first possession for an 7-0 lead, scoring on a zone-read keeper from the two. For the game he was 25-46 passing for 269 yards, with 12 carries for 29 yards on the ground, accounting for two tds with the one interception.
New Hampshire, Chip Kelly’s old squad, moves on to face two-time defending FCS Champion North Dakota State in the semi-finals Friday December 20th, a night game on ESPN 2 from the Fargo Dome in Fargo, North Dakota. The Bison are 13-0 and ranked #1.
It was the first trip ever to the playoffs for Southeastern, who finished the season 11-3, setting a school record for victories after going 5-6 last season. Head coach Ron Roberts told lionsports.net, ”I’m extremely proud of what our program was able to accomplish this season and I think the future is extremely bright. To get our first taste of playoff competition is something that is obviously going to benefit our returners.”
Bennett’s likely to lead those returners, though he is technically eligible to declare for the NFL draft. A week ago he engineered an 85-yard drive in the final 1:29 for a 30-29 win over Sam Houston in the second round of the playoffs, but the magic fell just short this week. For the season he was 215-354 passing (60.7%) for 3,165 yards, 21 tds and 11 interceptions, also the team’s leading rusher with 183 carries for 1,046 yards, 5.7 per carry, 16 tds.