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GSU tries to stay in postseason hunt

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Last Saturday’s win over then-No. 1 Appalachian State may have opened the door for the possibility of the playoffs, but the Georgia Southern Eagles have a long way to go if they’re still going to have a shot.

They face Western Carolina (2-7, 1-5 Southern Conference) Saturday at 3 p.m. in Cullowhee, N.C., and a loss would slam the door on any hope of a playoff berth.

"It’s in the back of our minds," said quarterback Jaybo Shaw, "but we realize that if we don’t take care of business, we can’t accomplish that."

Western will attack the GSU defense with a variety of different looks.

"What they are is a combination of a lot of offenses we’ve seen," said defensive coordinator Brent Pry. "They’re a little bit of Samford with some wildcat and power, they’re a little bit of App in spreading it out and getting the ball to the perimeter and then they throw the ball down the field like Chattanooga would. I think they’re probably the most versatile offense we’ve seen all year."

The key for the Eagles (5-4, 3-3), who are third-best in the SoCon at defending the run allowing 141.3 yards per game, is stopping WCU’s running backs.

"Week-in and week-out we’ve got to stop the run," Pry said. "If we allow them to run the football, that opens up some opportunities for them. They’ve got two exceptional backs. I think [junior running back Nate Harris] maybe the quickest back we’ve faced, and we need to do a great job keeping those guys at bay."

Offensively, Shaw and the Eagles just want to stay focused and avoid a let down.

"We have no choice but to put that one behind us," Shaw said about the ASU win. "We’ve got two more games, and if we want to get where we want to get to, we’ve got to take care of these two games."

It’s something the coaches have done their best to hammer home.

"We’ve talked to them quite a bit about not letting up and not letting this be a game where we don’t play with emotion and we let the [ASU] victory and all the pats on the back get to us," said first-year coach Jeff Monken. "I guess the proof is Saturday, and we’ll see."

Western is near the bottom of the conference in rushing defense — good news for GSU’s triple-option attack. The Catamounts’ 200.3 yards-per-game average places them seventh in the league, and they rank dead last in total yards allowed (424.2) and total touchdowns (37).

Still, it’s anybody’s guess how the Catamounts will approach defending the GSU offense.

"As we play people more and more we get a better idea of what they like to do against our offense, but we certainly don’t know how they’re going to line up," Monken said.


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

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