Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - When the many Monkens get together for a
family reunion, they're not talking about politics.
They have a pretty good set of checks and balances, however.
In the near future, Georgia Southern football coach Jeff Monken hopes to one-
up the family conversations with an FCS national championship.
The Eagles' outstanding coach has led his squad to the national semifinals in
each of his first three seasons of guiding the most successful program in FCS
history. Considering the Southern Conference powerhouse had slumped to a
combined 21-23 in the four seasons prior to Monken's return to Statesboro,
Ga., and his quick fix - or is it magic? - is nothing short of amazing.
A record seventh FCS (formerly Division I-AA) national title won't come easy
for Georgia Southern. The Eagles next have to go through defending champion
North Dakota State in the semifinals next weekend.
A year ago, NDSU outran the Eagles' vaunted triple option while cruising to a
35-7 win in the semifinals, also at the Fargodome.
As the teams prepare to meet again, rest assured some of the other Monkens
will be on the horn this week with thoughts on the matchup as Jeff tries to
make his third trip to the semifinals the charm.
"I've got a great family," the 45-year-old Illinois native said. "My dad is
the fourth of five brothers in his family. There's five boys and a girl in his
family of siblings. My grandmother, who's now passed away, she taught full-
time until she was 90 years old. And that's hard for people to believe that
somebody was still going to work at age 90, much less teaching and being in a
classroom. She was an amazing lady. She really, I guess, was the inspiration
for everybody else in our family.
"All six of her children went into high school teaching and coaching. My dad
and his four brothers were all head high school coaches in the state of
Illinois while I was growing up. There are seven of us who are sons of those
five brothers who have gone into coaching. We saw what an impact our
grandmother made and our fathers. My mom's a teacher as well. Several of those
brothers married teachers. And I think we just were very aware of the
influence that they had on young people, the opportunities that we had to
serve other people and really do something special with the lives we were
"Certainly other professions that we could enter into where you make more
money, but that wasn't what was important to our family. It was serving people
and helping people and giving kids opportunities to have a better life. We saw
that, recognized that and I think we all were very attracted to the
profession, and that's how it ended up."
The lure of guiding his own program was something Monken couldn't deny even
while he served under Paul Johnson on staffs at Georgia Southern, Navy and
He bleeds the navy blue and white of GSU, and the administration couldn't
bring him back fast enough in 2010. He was first a member of the Eagles' staff
as an assistant under Johnson from 1997-2001, and during that time they went a
combined 62-10 and won back-to-back national titles in 1999 and 2000.
Of course, successful coaching is all Monken knows.
"You're not going to walk into a Monken house where football is not the topic
of discussion. That's pretty much a given," Monken said. "There's some
outstanding coaches in my family. I don't include myself in that list. My dad
and three of his brothers are in the Illinois state high school coaches Hall
of Fame. And my cousin Todd's the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State and
I think he's just one of the finest football coaches around. I've got a couple
cousins who are head high school coaches in Illinois.
"We are always talking football and getting ideas from each other. What a
resource for me and all of us."
Georgia Southern will enter the semifinals with an FCS-leading 409 rushing
yards per game. Wofford's triple option dented North Dakota State for 262
rushing yards in their quarterfinal on Saturday, but the Bison are allowing
only 78.5 yards per game on the ground - second-best in the FCS.
The Eagles likely won't be able to fall behind by two touchdowns in the second
half, as they did against Old Dominion in the quarterfinals Saturday before
they rallied in the fourth quarter for a 49-35 victory.
They kept believing, though - something Monken instills in them.
Afterward, he said, "I'm just so proud to be a Georgia Southern Eagle."
FCS PLAYOFF ROUNDUP
A recap of the second-round playoff games can be found at .............
OLSON, OLSON AND MORE OLSON
Usually the statistical exploits of offensive players are spotlighted
throughout the playoffs, like Old Dominion sophomore quarterback Taylor
Heinicke becoming the first 5,000-yard passer in an FCS season on Saturday.
But North Dakota State linebacker Grant Olson enjoyed one of the defensive
performances of the year in the Bison's 14-7 win over Wofford.
Wofford ran 58 plays from scrimmage and the Terriers ran into Olson in half of
them. The 6-foot, 223-pound junior collected a school-record 29 tackles - six
solos and 23 assists.
NDSU coach Craig Bohl, Olson said, "told us to leave our hearts out there, and
that's what we did. Not one guy ever gave up, nobody ever had a look of fear
in his eyes. That's just what the Bison do. They've been doing it for
countless years; we're just the next group that's doing it."
THEY MEET EARLY
After appearing separately the last two years in the NCAA Division I Football
Championship Game in Frisco, Texas, Eastern Washington, the 2010 national
champion, and Sam Houston State, the 2011 national runner-up, scheduled a
home-and-series earlier this year for the 2013 and '14 seasons.
It turns out they will meet a year earlier. Eastern Washington will roll out
the red carpet for the Bearkats in the national semifinals next weekend.
The two schools have met once previously. They staged an epic postseason
battle at Eastern Washington on Dec. 5, 2004, when Sam Houston State rallied
in the fourth quarter for a 35-34 win.
STOCK RISING, STOCK FALLING
Rising: Sam Houston State quarterback Brian Bell said it was a business trip,
and the Bearkats sure knew how to take care of business with their 34-16 win
at third-seeded Montana State. Their team speed picked apart the Bobcats for
the second straight year in the FCS quarterfinals. The Southland Conference
squad's reward for the impressive win? A visit to equally chilly Eastern
Falling: Meltdowns brought disappointing ends to a handful of seasons this
weekend. Jackson State allowed a 95-yard touchdown pass to Arkansas-Pine Bluff
with two minutes left and went on to lose in overtime in the SWAC Championship
Game. Montana State fell by 18 points at home to Sam Houston State in the FCS
quarterfinals, bringing their combined total of playoff losses the last three
seasons to 79 points. Old Dominion let a 35-21 lead after three quarters
evaporate at home in a 28-point Georgia Southern onslaught in the fourth
quarter of their FCS quarterfinal.
The Sports Network FCS All-America Team will be announced on Monday, Dec. 10.
The four major FCS awards - the Walter Payton (FCS outstanding player), the
Buck Buchanan (FCS outstanding defensive player), the Jerry Rice (FCS freshman
of the year) and the Eddie Robinson (FCS coach of the year) - will be
announced on Monday, Dec. 17.
This Weekend's Record: 3-2 (.600)
Season Record: 578-186 (.757)
X-Sam Houston State (10-3) at No. 2 seed Eastern Washington (11-2). Have to
wonder if the back-to-back weeks of travel to Big Sky country will catch up to
No. 5 seed Georgia Southern (10-3) at X-No. 1 seed North Dakota State (12-1).
Until an offense figures out the Bison's stifling defense, you can't pick
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