NEWARK, Del. -- A decade ago, Georgia Southern was on top of the FCS world.
The Eagles had just won their sixth national championship capping a back-to-back run, and there was no end in sight.
The end, however, did come the following December when Furman beat the Eagles in the semifinals, a game that also snapped Georgia Southern’s NCAA record 39-game home winning streak.
Earlier that week, head coach Paul Johnson had confirmed he was going to Navy.
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Offensive coordinator Mike Sewak was Johnson’s successor, and he took Georgia Southern to the semifinals again in 2002, but it lost to eventual champion Western Kentucky.
Things have never been quite the same since. Georgia Southern lost first-round playoff games in 2003 and 2005. Sewak was fired, and during the next four seasons, the Eagles were 21-23.
But this season has seen a rebirth under first-year head coach Jeff Monken.
Riding a six-game winning streak, the Eagles (10-4) will be playing for a shot at a seventh championship at noon on Saturday when they take on third-seeded Delaware (11-2).
Delaware’s size and the weather, Monken said, will present major challenges for the Eagles.
“They’re big, and they’ve got a lot of skill guys,” Monken said. “They’re going to be bigger than us, that’s for sure.
“When we walk on the field, we won’t win the height and weight competition. We won’t win the speed competition, either, because they’re fast.”
As for the weather, the forecast for Newark calls for a high of 36.
“That’s difficult for a team not used to cold weather,” Monken said. “You have to put it out of your mind and focus.”
The focus Saturday will be on two of the best programs in FCS.
The Eagles’ six titles are an NCAA record, but Delaware also lays claim to six national championships.
Georgia Southern’s championships have all come via the playoff system.
The Blue Hens’ crowns come in a mixture. They won an FCS championship in 2003, one came in the Division II playoffs, and the others -- the first was in 1946 -- came as a result of finishing first in The Associated Press/United Press International polls, which named the small college champion prior to the playoff system.
Delaware will be the third team the Eagles have faced this year that will be ranked No. 1 in the nation at one time or another.
Georgia Southern beat Appalachian State 21-14 in overtime when the Mountaineers were the top-ranked team in FCS. It beat William & Mary 31-15 in the second round of the playoffs.
Delaware will also be the sixth team Georgia Southern will have faced this season that has either won or shared its conference championship. The others were Appalachian State, Wofford, Coastal Carolina, South Carolina State and William and Mary.
The Eagles have beaten them all, although it took a rematch to beat the Terriers. That win came last Saturday in the quarterfinals, 23-20.