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Eagles keep on running

Eagles keep on running

Eagles keep on running

Georgia Southern fullback Lee Banks s...


Just 52 yards on five completions — and one of them was from the punter to the long snapper on a fake field goal.

That’s all Georgia Southern has needed through the air on its way to a pair of dominant wins over its first two playoff opponents.

In the triple-option offense, it isn’t the passing that matters, it’s the threat of the pass.

"Coaches aren’t just going to say, ‘Forget the pass. We’re playing 11 guys on the run.’ They can’t do it, because the first time one gets thrown over their head, there’s 11 guys standing on the line of scrimmage and they’ve got to answer for it, just as we would," said first-year GSU coach Jeff Monken, whose Eagles take on Wofford Saturday at 2 p.m. in Spartanburg, S.C., in the first round of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs. "Wofford runs the ball very effectively, but we’ve got to defend the pass, because the threat is there."

For outsiders to the now-unique-but-once-common offense, scoring 73 points through the first two rounds of the playoffs seems, somehow, boring.

"People kind of put us down," said Monken. "‘It’s not very exciting,’ and, ‘Who what’s to see that? It’s a high-school offense.’"

In fact, the only touchdown William and Mary scored in GSU’s 31-15 win Saturday came from a pick-six on one of the Eagles’ seven pass attempts.

"In either game, we just didn’t feel like there was much of a need to [pass]," said offensive coordinator Brent Davis. "We were doing okay without it. There were a couple of situations there where we got forced to throw the ball, and it didn’t turn out too well for us. We had an interception for a touchdown, and we need to do better than that. We talked all week about not giving up turnovers, and we really did a good job with it except for that. I thought our guys were really conscious of it."

Aside from the offensive line, the biggest strides offensively for the Eagles (9-4) has come at the fullback position. True freshman Robert Brown rushed for a career-high 178 yards Saturday, and backup Tobi Akinniranye, who played for the first time since an Oct. 16 injury at Chattanooga, added 23 more on just four carries.

"That’s an important position to get going in our offense," Monken said. "If they can shut you down there, you’re just going to have to do a great job on the perimeter when you get out there."

The Eagles haven’t surprised anybody with the amount of carries, but have averaged 373 yards during the two weeks of playoffs.

"Even when the other team knows what’s coming, we’ve still got to prepare together," said Brown. "We play as a team the best we can."

Georgia Southern faces a familiar foe in Wofford Saturday. The Terriers led the nation in rushing during 2010, averaging 307.3 yards compared to GSU’s 268.7.

Still, the Eagles have momentum, rushing for more than 275 yards in each of the last four games.

"The Samford game (a 20-13 loss on Oct. 30) was probably the low point of our season," said Davis. "From where we were then to where we are now, I think we’re light years better."

After a first-round bye, Wofford rushed for 269 yards in its 17-14 win over Jacksonville State in its first playoff game, a second-round win Saturday in Jacksonville, Ala.

 

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

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