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Playoff Football Returns To Ellensburg For Wildcats
Central Washington will need defense to play big. The Wildcats enter the week leading Division II in sacks (including this one here by Billy Greer) and rushing defense.
Central Washington will need defense to play big. The Wildcats enter the week leading Division II in sacks (including this one here by Billy Greer) and rushing defense.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

After eight years and another week of waiting after a well-earned first-round bye, Central Washington is ready to play some playoff football.
The 2017 GNAC champions and the top seed in Super Region 4 will host No. 5 seed Texas A&M-Commerce on Saturday in the regional semifinals. Kickoff from Ellensburg’s Tomlinson Stadium.

Central Washington is in the NCAA playoffs for the first time since 2009. The Wildcats advanced to the second round that year, losing to Northwest Missouri State.

Texas A&M-Commerce made the NCAA playoffs last year for the first time since 1990. The Lions won their first-round game over Winona State, 20-6. Commerce oerwhelmed Winona State offensively, finishing with 308 passing yards and 456 yards of total offense. The defense, meanwhile, limited Winona State to just two field goals.

Saturday’s game will feature two of the top offenses in Division II. The Wildcats enters the game ranked 16th nationally in total offense, averaging 464.5 yards per game, and 12th in scoring offense with 40.2 points per game.While strong both on the ground and in the air, Central Washington is 11th in Division II in rushing offense at 245 yards per game.

Texas A&M-Commerce has been just as potent, ranking 20th in Division II with 38.5 points per game and 16th in total offense with 459.4 yards per game. The Lions lead the nation in passing at 360.5 yards per game. Quarterback Luis Perez leads Division II individually with 339.7 yards per game and 38 passing touchdowns.

Where Central Washington excels, however, is on defense. The Wildcats are third in Division II in total defense, allowing 244.5 yards per game, and 16th in scoring defense with 16.1 points allowed per contest. Central leads the nation in both sacks per game (5.27) and rushing defense (45.5 yards per game).

This is the third appearance for the GNAC in the postseason in as many years. Azusa Pacific represented the league in 2016 and Humboldt State made the playoffs in 2015.

CENTRAL WASHINGTON
LAST WEEK: No Game - First Round Playoff Bye
THIS WEEK: Nov. 25: vs. Texas A&M-Commerce, Noon

• Central Washington ended the regular season with an 11-0 record, becoming just the third team in GNAC history to finish the regular season undefeated (Central Washington in 2002 & 2009).

• The Wildcats secured the championship and the No. 1 seed in Super Region 4 of the NCAA Division II Playoffs on Nov. 11 with a 42-38 road win over Humboldt State.

• Central Washington finished with 495 yards of total offense in the game, which included 275 rushing yards. Running back Austin Pernell led the way with 196 yards on 29 carries with three touchdowns. Quarterback Reilly Hennessey completed 13 of 17 passes for 220 yards and two touchdowns. Both scoring passes went to tight end Kyle Self, who had 122 yards on five receptions.

• Defense was key in the victory with the Wildcats limiting the Lumberjacks to 287 yards of total offense. Central Washington had 13 tackles for loss and 11 sacks. Billy Greer had three of those sacks along with a forced fumble while Kevin Haynes led all players with nine tackles along with 1.5 sacks and a fumble recovery.

• Central Washington enters the week averaging 464.5 yards of total offense per game, second in the GNAC and 16th in Division II. The Wildcats 245 rushing yards per game is 12th in Division II. Central Washington ranks eighth nationally in fourth down conversion percentage (.45) and 13th in third-down conversions (.479).

• Defensively, Central Washington leads Division II with 5.27 sacks per game and in rushing defense, allowing 45.5 yards per contest. The Wildcats second in team tackles for loss at 10.6 per game, are third in total defense, allowing 244.5 yards per game, and are 16th in scoring defense, allowing 16.1 points per game.

ABOUT TEXAS A&M-COMMERCE
• Texas A&M-Commerce is in the NCAA Playoffs for just the second time in the last 27 years. The Lions enter the game at 10-1 overall after finishing second in the Lone Star Conference at 9-1.

• The No. 5 Lions advanced to the Super Region 4 semifinals with a 20-6 win at No. 4 seed Winona State last Saturday.

• The Texas A&M-Commerce offense is paced by quarterback Luis Perez, who leads NCAA Division II with an average of 339.7 passing yards per game. The Lions are third in Division II in total offense with 459.4 yards per game and 20th in scoring offense with 38.5 points per game.

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