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GSU Football Notebook: Citadel lends a hand in learning experience

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Jerick McKinnon played an entire game for the first time as a Georgia Southern Eagle Saturday in the 20-0 win over The Citadel, and although starter Jaybo Shaw could have come back in if he had to, the coaching staff let the true freshman ride from the third offensive play until the final whistle.

The Eagles (4-3, 2-2 Southern Conference) took advantage of the Bulldogs’ nine turnovers to get McKinnon some much-needed playing time.

"We were getting turnovers about every series — I still can’t believe how many turnovers there were — but our defense was playing so well. I think we were comfortable keeping Jerick in there," said GSU coach Jeff Monken. "I thought we’d get more points. I thought we’d pop a play, hit a play-action pass or something like that, but we just never did."

While McKinnon only attempted three passes, two that fell incomplete and one that was picked off, the basic philosophy of the triple-option offense stayed the same.

"What we do isn’t going to change," Monken said. "We’re going to run the option and we’re going to throw the ball when we have to. I’m glad we got Jerick some snaps. Saturday was a game where Jaybo could have come back in, but I’m glad we were able to get him some rest, and get [McKinnon] some experience."

According to Monken, Shaw is "still our quarterback."

"Really for us, we’re completely comfortable doing everything with Jaybo," said Monken. "When you’ve got a true freshman that hasn’t played a lot, you sometimes do feel a little limited with what you can give him."


National spotlight

Sophomore nose tackle Brent Russell leads the Eagles with 7.5 tackles for loss on the season, and his performance has gotten him on the Buchanan watch list for the Buck Buchanan Award given to the best defensive player in the Football Championship Subdivision.

Russell joins 19 other players from around the country, including three from Appalachian State and one from Samford, on the watchlist.

"I’m completely honored," said Russell after finding out about the nomination Monday at practice, "but I’ll just keep coming out here and working with my team, see what the limit is."

First chink in the armor

After starting the season 10 for 10 in field goals and 22 for 22 in extra points, GSU kicker Adrian Mora finally missed. It was a 29-yard field goal try Saturday at The Citadel.

Of course, Mora isn’t one to dwell on it.

"It’s like any other position," said the junior kicker, who is now 23 for 23 on extra points and still sits at an impressive 90.9 percent in the field-goal department. "You make a mistake and you kind of wish you could have it back, but you can’t really do anything about it. You just try to have a short memory. I was fortunate enough to go out there and get an extra point right after the field goal. I put one through the sticks, and it was alright."

It just showed him never to let up.

"If anything it makes me work harder in practice," he said. "Maybe it’s a blessing in disguise."


A veteran play

While one of The Citadel’s three interceptions went right to Laron Scott, and they might as well have handed the ball over on three of the six fumbles, an athletic grab in the fourth quarter, came from an unlikely player.

True freshman Lavelle Westbrooks, who started at cornerback in place of injured Carson Hill and has also played snaps at safety this season, looked like a veteran while recording four tackles and one athletic interception.

"He did a great job of turning back into the receiver and didn’t get lost when the ball was in the air," Monken said. "It was a good play and a nice catch."


Knocking the rust off

True freshman fullback Robert Brown got his first significant snaps since a September 18 injury at Coastal Carolina Saturday, carrying the ball 20 times for 63 yards and adding a touchdown and a fumble.

"I thought he looked really rusty," said Monken. "I was glad he got in there, because he can learn from watching himself better than he can watching somebody else. You got the film, you got 60-some-odd snaps of him playing, and you can say, ‘Look, your track’s bad here, your footwork’s bad here, you’re not hitting it fast enough here, the ball security’s poor.’ When you can see yourself I think you’re more apt to accept the coaching and learn. We need him to play better and he’s going to have to play for us."

The Eagles return to action Saturday when they host Samford (3-4, 1-4) at 2 p.m. at Paulson Stadium.


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


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