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GSU keeps playoff hopes alive

Eagles put away Western, improve to 6-4

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GSU keeps playoff hopes alive

Robert Brown explodes through a hole on his way to an 80-yard touchdown run that gave Georgia Southern a 21-6 lead over Western Carolina in the third quarter Saturday in Cullowhee, N.C.

CULLOWHEE, N.C. — Every time the Western Carolina Catamounts knocked on the door, Georgia Southern gave them an unfriendly greeting.

Western’s five trips to the red zone resulted in two made field goals, a blocked field goal, an interception and a sack that that was followed up with a fumble in the game’s final minute as the Eagles cruised to a 28-6 win Saturday at Whitmire Stadium.

With next Saturday’s game at Furman ending the regular season, the Eagles still have a shot at the seven-win mark to become playoff eligible.

"I’m glad to get six wins and be where we’re at, and have an opportunity to get a seventh," said GSU coach Jeff Monken. "We play Furman, it’s a big rivalry for us, and our guys will be excited because it’s them. We’re excited to have this opportunity to play this game to get to seven wins."

As for the Catamounts (2-8, 1-6 Southern Conference), the GSU defense had its way, recording 11 tackles for loss including 3.5 sacks. Georgia Southern out-gained WCU 413-259.

The Eagles (6-4, 4-3) scored a touchdown in each quarter. Quarterback Jaybo Shaw (7 for 10, 136 yards, INT) put the icing on the cake in the fourth quarter punching in his second rushing touchdown from one yard out, and true freshman fullback Robert Brown (17 carries, 154 yards) exploded for an 80-yard touchdown run in the third.

"Robert’s special, I think everyone can see that," Shaw said. "He’s very talented, and I’m happy for him, proud of him. We got a great double team, and he’s obviously hard to catch and hard to tackle."

Early in the third, Western drove all the way to the GSU 15, but cornerback Laron Scott intercepted a pass from Zac Brindise in the end zone to put an end to the threat.

It was the second interception for Scott. Safety Derek Heyden also intercepted a pass, and Josh Rowe and Boyd Sasser recovered fumbles.

"We try not to give up anything, but if anything we’re going to bend and not break," said GSU nose tackle Brent Russell, who recorded seven tackles including 3.5 for loss. "The interceptions were huge. The secondary was going up and fighting for the ball, just going up and taking it away."

The Eagles also blocked a 37-yard field goal attempt in the third to preserve a second-half shutout for the second time in as many weeks.

Trailing 3-0 early in the first quarter, the Eagles marched 65 yards on nine plays and scored on a two-yard run by slotback J.J. Wilcox to take a 7-3 lead.

Early in the second quarter, GSU defensive end Dion DuBose left the game with a dislocated left knee after a seven-yard run by WCU’s Michael Johnson.

"We automatically felt like we had to play harder for him," said Brown. "He’s our teammate and for him not to be able to play with us, it hit us hard."

The Eagles responded to their teammate’s injury in a hurry. On the next play after the injury delay, Brindise took a shot down the field, resulting in Scott’s first interception of the game.

The GSU offense added to the momentum swing, as the first two plays of the drive resulted in Shaw passes of 22 to Tyler Sumner and 46 down the middle to Wilcox.

Shaw followed up an eight-yard run by Darreion Robinson with a two-yard keeper that gave the Eagles a 14-6 halftime lead.

The Catamounts started each of their first two drives with a big play.

The game started with a handoff to Johnson that went 44 yards down the sideline and got Western into position for a 36-yard field goal by Blake Bostic.

The next WCU drive started with a 29-yard pass from Brindise to Josh Cockrell that led to a 38 yarder.

Those two plays accounted for 65 of the Catamounts’ 95 first-half yards.

The Eagles conclude the regular season Saturday at 2 p.m. against Furman in Greenville, S.C.


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

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