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GSU looks to get back on track against Citadel

 

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Georgia Southern coach Jeff Monken was expressing his concern at practice this week about the youth the Eagles had in their secondary, noting that at one point last week against Chattanooga there were four true freshmen on the field.

Pass defense should not be a major concern this week as the Eagles prepare for a 1 p.m. Southern Conference game Saturday at The Citadel.

The Bulldogs (2-5, 0-4), who joined Georgia Southern (3-3, 1-2) in switching to the triple option this season, have the worst passing attack in FCS football.

Coach Kevin Higgins team is coming off a 39-10 loss at Appalachian State in which it failed to complete a forward pass, going 0-for-6. Hard to believe for a team whose coach was once the quarterback coach for the Detroit Lions.

It was the first time since the 1995 season The Citadel had failed to complete a pass in a game, and the Dogs were the first App State opponent in 81 years to do so.

Georgia Southern isn’t exactly Air Eagle, but its numbers are downright glittering compared to the Bulldogs.

Quarterback Jaybo Shaw is yet to throw an interception this year, having completed 35 of 65 passes for 668 yards and four touchdowns. The Eagles have one interception, and it was thrown by Nico Hickey at the end of last week’s 35-27 loss at Chattanooga.

In their seven games, the last four losing efforts, the Bulldogs have completed only 24 of 76 passes for 355 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions. Subtract a 6-of-7, 127 yard outing in a 56-12 win over Chowan, and it looks even worse.

Freshman quarterback Matt Thompson is 18-for-52 for 282 yards. He owns all four picks and the three scoring tosses.

Georgia Southern ranks 111th among FCS schools in passing while fellow SoCon member Wofford, the league’s third option team, is 116th.

"Their option presents a lot of conflicts," Higgins said. "They know how to attack you. They have done a nice job against every opponent, and it all begins with Shaw."

While the Eagles have the league’s second best rushing offense at 265 yards per game, the passing game has also made an impression on Higgins.

"Shaw does a lot for them," Higgins said. "The interesting thing is they throw very, very effectively. In situations where you know they are going to throw the ball this guy is effective.

"He can throw the football."

While the Bulldogs have struggled to throw it – in their last two games they are 2-for-14 for 25 yards – they are averaging 240 yards per game on the ground. Junior fullback Terrell Dallas has 490 yards, sixth best in the conference.

While the offense continues to learn the intricacies of the option the defense, Higgins said, is getting better.

"We’ve shown a lot of improvement," Higgins said. "Eric Clanton and Derek Douglas have had a nice year, and our linebackers have made an awful lot of progress."

Clanton has seven sacks, and Douglas 3.5 while Clanton also has 11 tackles for loss. Linebackers Rod Harland and Toki Akindele lead the Bulldogs in tackles at 5 per game.

In addition to Shaw the Bulldog coach also sang the praises of defensive tackle Brent Russell.

"Their two inside guys, Russell and (Roderick) Tinsley, are their most impressive players from a defensive standpoint," Higgins said. "Looking at tapes they did an amazing job against Navy.

"Brent Russell is as good as any defensive player in the league," Higgins said. "He creates havoc inside."

The option which The Citadel runs is similar to what the Eagles are running, unlike Wofford which often has the quarterback taking snaps in the shotgun.

"We looked at Georgia Tech and Navy when we decided to make the change," Higgins said. "We used them as a model. We looked at what Paul Johnson was doing."

Monken, of course, spent 13 years coaching under Johnson.

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