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Wiggins has big day on defense

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Posted: October 21, 2006 9:19 p.m.
Updated: October 29, 2006 5:00 a.m.
    Redshirt freshman Ronnie Wiggins anxiously awaited Saturday’s homecoming game against top-ranked Appalachian State.
    “I just couldn’t wait to play because they were the No. 1 team in the nation,” the cornerback said. “I really wanted to see how good this team is and how good I am with their receivers. You always want to play well in front of your home (crowd) and do what’s needed.”
    Wiggins did just that, recovering a pair of fumbles and recording one pass breakup and six tackles Saturday in Georgia Southern’s 27-20 double-overtime loss to the Mountaineers. His biggest play came in the fourth quarter when he returned a fumble 17 yards for a touchdown.
    It was the first time the Eagles have returned a fumble for a touchdown since David Young picked up a loose ball and ran it 34 yards for a score on Sept. 7, 2002, in Georgia Southern’s 56-0 win over Gardner-Webb.
    “They just came to me,” he said. “I was just in the right spot at the right time. (But) it’s always tough to lose the game, especially when we play the best defense that we’ve ever played.”
    Wiggins, who had a career-high seven tackles last week, became the first Eagle to recover two fumbles since sophomore strong safety Dedrick Bynam in last year’s regular-season finale against Morehead State.
    “Ronnie’s one of those guys that just keeps getting better,” Eagle coach Brian VanGorder said. “He’s a freshman, so he’s going to be an awfully good football player.”
    At 5-foot-8 and 170 pounds, people often tell Wiggins he’s too small to match up with some receivers, but it doesn’t faze him.
    “I hear that all the time, but it’s just the size of the heart, the size of the fight,” he said. “I’ve got speed, so that’s how I make up for size. I’m a competitor. Anytime somebody tells me I can’t do something, that’s when I want to do it.”
    Despite Saturday’s loss, Wiggins said he feels like Georgia Southern’s young secondary is gradually improving.
    “Every practice we get a little bit better,” he said. “When we first got up here, we just relied on the coaches for everything. Now everybody is starting to click, and we know what we are supposed to do. Sometimes we mess up, but they are easy problems to fix.”

Bynam sets career high
    Bynam recorded a career-high nine tackles including one pass breakup Saturday. Last year’s Southern Conference freshman of the year has 23 tackles this season.

Eagles keeping picking
    Redshirt freshman Terrione Benefield intercepted a pass in the second quarter, his third pick this season. Georgia Southern’s defense has intercepted a pass in 16 of the last 18 games (23 in all).

Gray, Lewis start
    Junior fullback Dusty Reddick, who suffered a concussion during the opening kickoff last week, was a late scratch Saturday. Sophomore Sean Gray started for the second straight week.
    Junior Lamar Lewis started at running back instead of sophomore Chris Covington.

Kearney, Dickerson
leave team
    Redshirt freshman linebacker Tavares Kearney and senior defensive end Chris Dickerson have left the team for personal reasons.
    Kearney, a former Georgia Bulldog who joined the Eagles this summer, had one tackles in two appearances while Dickerson recorded three tackles in five games.

    Alex Pellegrino can be reached at (912) 489-9413.
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