STATESBORO -- There’s no mystery as to why Georgia Southern finds itself in the semifinals of the FCS for the second straight year.
“We would not be in this position if we did not have Jaybo Shaw,” Eagles head coach Jeff Monken said. “We wouldn’t have been in this position last year.”
The senior from Flowery Branch has been a model of consistency and efficiency in the two years he has played for the Eagles after transferring from Georgia Tech.
Shaw faces a stiff test at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday when the Eagles (11-2) face North Dakota State (12-1) at the Fargodome in Fargo, N.D.
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The winner will advance to the FCS championship game, which will be played Jan. 7 in Frisco, Texas, against the winner of Friday’s Sam Houston State-Montana game.
“There’s no question when you’ve got a veteran quarterback you’ve got confidence in it helps,” Monken said. “He has a presence with our guys and they recognize it.
“What a great leader he has been for us. He recognizes defenses, and makes decisions that will keep our offense going. He’s incredibly patient.”
This season, Shaw has 14 touchdowns on 370 yards rushing, and he has completed 64-of-116 passes for 1,342 yards and 10 touchdowns with three interceptions, two of which came in the Eagles’ 24-17 loss at Appalachian State.
Against Maine he completed 7-of-8 passes for 116 yards and a score while picking up another 19 on the ground. In the two playoff games, Shaw is 14-of-19 for 246 yards and two touchdowns.
“I’ve known Jaybo since high school,” said Monken, who was an assistant at Georgia Tech when Shaw was recruited. “He won a couple of games for us at Tech as a starter.”
Shaw, who transferred to Georgia Southern after Monken was hired to replace Chris Hatcher, downplayed his role in the Eagles’ success.
“My job is to get the ball to the playmakers,” Shaw said. “The guys are confident. We’re playing with confidence, they trust the game plan, trust the coaches and trust one another.
“We expect to control the ball, clock, time of possession and have long drives. The more we win, the bigger the games get.”
Georgia Southern is making its 11th appearance in the semifinals, but it has lost its past three trips this deep into the playoffs. The Eagles won the national championship in 1999 and 2000 but lost in 2001 (Furman), 2002 (Western Kentucky) and last year to Delaware.