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Eagles looking for a way to slow Samford

Eagles looking for a way to slow Samford

Eagles looking for a way to slow Samford

Georgia Southern's Jerick McKinnon ch...

On the surface, it looks like Samford had its way against Western Carolina last Saturday when it rolled to a 62-22 win. And the Bulldogs did, especially in the second half.

However, coach Pat Sullivan said while his team won handily, it was tough sledding in the early going before his team got on a roll thanks to running back Fabian Truss.

“Going into the game I thought this was the best team Western Carolina had since we came into the league (2008),” Sullivan said. “I thought there would be four or five plays that would make the difference in the game. This was our most complete game of the season offensively, defensively, and special teams. It’s what it takes to win in this league.”

It started out as the type game Sullivan was anticipating with the Bulldogs up 14-7 midway through the second quarter. The Catamounts drove to the 5-yard line, but had to settle for a field goal. Then came one of the four or five plays Sullivan believed his team had to make.

Truss, one of the top running backs in the Southern Conference, and easily the best kick returner, delivered big time, returning the ensuing kickoff 100 yards with 6:35 left in the first half.

Three minutes later quarterback Andy Summerlin, who leads the SoCon in passing, hit Chris Cephus on a 52-yard scoring pass for a 28-10 halftime lead. Samford scored two touchdowns on three plays in the third quarter to cap a 28-0 run, and the rout was on.

Georgia Southern (3-1, 1-1), coming off an emotional 23-21 win over Chattanooga, will have to devise a way to stop the Bulldog (3-2, 1-0) duo when the two teams meet at 3 p.m. on Saturday at Siebert Stadium in Birmingham, Ala.

“Offensively they’ve got a quarterback who is doing a great job,” Eagles coach Jeff Monken said. “Fabian is a great running back, and he is the best kick returner in the league. He has two 100-yard kick returns for touchdowns, which is unbelievable.”

Truss, who took the opening game kickoff back 100 yards against Georgia State in the first game of the season, has 394 yards rushing and four touchdowns on 88 carries. He has returned 13 kicks for 437 yards. As a team, Georgia Southern has returned 12 for 190 yards, which ranks last in the conference.

Summerlin has thrown for 1,259 yards for 11 touchdowns while completing 63.5 percent of his passes. In his last two games he has passed for 805 yards -  a school record 478 in a 34-31 loss to Southeastern Louisiana and 327 against Western Carolina.

“It’s been a team effort, but Andy has been great the last couple of weeks,” said Sullivan, who won the Heisman Trophy in 1971 while playing quarterback at Auburn. “He’s spread it around to our receivers, and we’ve got a few that can make plays. We’re going to have to score some points. Georgia Southern is leading the league in scoring offense (44.8 ppg) and scoring defense (19.2). We’ve got our work cut out for us.”

Truss, Kelsey Pope and Cephus each had 128 yards receiving against Southeastern Louisiana which is a member of the Southland Conference.

Samford’s other loss came at Arkansas, 31-21, in a game which the Bulldogs led 21-17 going into the fourth quarter.

The Eagles have won their last four meetings with Bulldogs, but they’ve all been nail biters, Monken said.

“I’ve got great respect for their team,” Monken said. “They’re talented inside, and they do as good a job against the option as anyone in the league.”

Georgia Southern leads the SoCon in total offense (501 yards per game, 400 rushing), and total defense (307.2 ypg) while quarterback Jerick McKinnon has moved up to second in the conference in rushing with 103.8 yards per game after getting 172 against Chattanooga.

“I wish we had more guys like him,” Monken said of McKinnon. “We’ll continue to play him at running back because of injuries which have left us so thin.”

The Eagles have 13 scholarship players out for the season due to injuries, the most notable loss being junior B-back Dominique Swope who had shoulder surgery last week.

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