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Russell leads tenacious Eagle defense

Russell leads tenacious Eagle defense

Russell leads tenacious Eagle defense

Georgia Southern defensive tackle Bre...

Brent Russell hasn’t been around forever, it only seems that way.
    Russell, Georgia Southern’s outstanding nose tackle, is only a sophomore, and if there is any one out there who questions his legitimacy as one of the 20 finalists for the Buck Buchanan Award, they should have been at Paulson Stadium Saturday afternoon.
     The Eagles’ defense turned in one of its most impressive performances of the season as it dismantled the South Carolina State offense in Georgia Southern’s 41-16 FCS playoffs first round win.
     The 6-foot-2, 287 pound Russell was the ringleader of the Eagle defense which limited the Bulldogs to only 223 yards total offense and one touchdown.
    SC State entered the game averaging 360 yards and 31.8 points per game, but it was nowhere to be found against an Eagle defense that stepped up its game after quarterback Jaybo Shaw went out with an injury in the first quarter.
      “We (defense) had to take it on our backs,” Moore said after Shaw went down. “You can’t give up a score when your leader goes out.”
    Georgia Southern was leading 9-0 when Shaw was hit hard at the Eagle five by the Bulldogs’ Christian Thompson whose nickname is appropriately The Terminator.
    Shaw left the field under his own power, but it was obvious he was woozy. He did not return.
    However, Russell and his mates rallied around the flag so to speak, and although the Bulldogs did get a 90 yard kickoff return for a touchdown to cut the deficit to 19-10 at the half, they did not get an offensive score until a little more than five minutes remained.
    “I didn’t know who went down at the time,” Russell said of Shaw’s injury, “but when I found out it was Jaybo I said, ‘OK defense you know what we have to do now.’ ”
    “I hated to give up that score they got near the end of the game, but they had a good offense.”
    From a statistical standpoint four tackles doesn’t sound impressive, but they don’t begin to tell the impact Russell had on the game.
    Perhaps his most impressive play of the season came in the second period when he created a fumble which Josh Gebhardt returned 34 yards for a touchdown to push the Eagles lead to 16-0.
            Russell simply bowled over the defender in front of him and reached SC State quarterback Malcolm Long as he was handing the ball off to Asheton Jordan.
            While wrapping up both players Russell swatted the ball loose and Gebhardt picked it up and scored unscathed.
            With Shaw injured and his replacement, freshman Jerick McKinnon, struggling it gave the Eagles the shot in the arm they
            “He held it (the ball) out there,” Russell said. “I wasn’t sure whether to take it or knock it out. I decided to knock it out, and Gebhardt made a great run.”
            “I felt him on my back,” Long said. “I thought he was going to tackle me, so I went ahead to hand the ball off. He made a great play.”

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