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Where it all starts

GSU QB sparks the offense

Where it all starts

Where it all starts

Georgia Southern quarterback Jaybo Sh...

    Four games into the season, he’s seventh on the team in rushing yardage.
    He’s been on the field for every offensive snap since the first game, and he has accounted for 78 of Georgia Southern’s 1,092 rushing yards.
    He’s quarterback Jaybo Shaw, and his 43 passing attempts on the season are fewer than the number attempted by Elon quarterback Scott Riddle (45) in GSU’s 38-21 win Saturday over the then-No. 10 Phoenix.
    He averages 1.4 yards per carry.
    Of course, big numbers and flashy plays aren’t Shaw’s job.
    “He’s a calming influence for everybody else,” said GSU quarterbacks Mitch Ware of Shaw’s role during the transition back to the triple option. “He knows the offense. He’s been able to get us out of tough situations and get the ball to the right people.”
    That explains why Shaw was all smiles after he finished the Elon game with two touchdowns on negative-10 yards rushing.
    “I just wanted to show leadership,” said Shaw, a junior Georgia Tech transfer. “I could care less about my numbers — rushing, passing. That stuff doesn’t matter to me. I’d rather just lead the team on one of those 15- or 17-play drives. That’s my job. To get the offense going and spread it around to different guys.”
    There have been plenty of different guys.
    Despite missing Saturday’s game with an injury, true freshman B-back Robert Brown leads the Eagles with 233 rushing yards. His replacements Saturday — senior walkons Lee Banks and Tobi Akinniranye — are second (129) and third (113) on the team respectively in rushing, and three others — Darries Robinson, J.J. Wilcox and Nico Hickey — have eclipsed 100 yards rushing on the season.
    “There’s a lot of guys faster than me,” Shaw said. “I just try to get them the ball so they can make plays.”
    Shaw has been able to orchestrate some big plays on the perimeter by running just enough to pull in the defense and open up one of the A-backs for a pitch. Pitching at the last possible second on option plays has resulted in some big hits on Shaw, and some big gains on the perimeter.
    “A lot of times in the past we might have ran out there and pitched the ball, and the guy turns and tackles the guy with the pitch,” Ware said. “[Shaw] does a good job of making that guy take him, then he pitches the ball.”
    Perhaps Shaw’s biggest asset has been his arm. The triple-option offense is notorious for getting huge chunks of yards through the air when a defense least expects it, but falling short in passing situations. For Shaw, not so much.
    Though only called upon to throw 10.75 times per game, Shaw has made them count, going 26 of 43 (60.5 percent) for 434 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions.
    The Eagles have gotten 20 first downs through the air this season, most notably passes on 4th-and-8 against Navy that went for a touchdown and late 3rd- and 4th-and-long completions against Coastal Carolina and Elon to seal the games in the fourth quarter.
Shaw has spread it around to eight different players through the air. 
    “I have confidence in everyone on this team,” he said. “Any A-back, any receiver that gets in there, they know how to play football and they’re going to make a play when they have the ball in their hands.”
    Still, the offense hasn’t been perfect. It’s put the ball on the ground 12 times and lost five fumbles this season. Ware has seen Shaw learn from every mistake he’s made.
    “When you tell him he’s doing something wrong, he’s going to try to fix it,” said Ware. “He’s not going to come up with an excuse why he did something, which is the human nature part of it especially in the heat of battle. They’ll say, ‘Well hey, if this guy did this, or this happened,’ or, ‘The wind was blowing,’ or, ‘My hands were sweaty.’ There’s 1,000 of them we’ve heard over the years.
    “[With Shaw] – never. It’s always, ‘Yes sir.’ Then he makes the correction.”
    The Eagles have this weekend off, and return to action Saturday, October 9 at 6 p.m. against Wofford for Family Weekend at Paulson Stadium.

    Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.

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