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GSU/Furman — One last time

GSU/Furman — One last time

GSU/Furman — One last time

Georgia Southern's Laron Scott blocks...

    Jeff Monken has never lost to Furman as the head coach at Georgia Southern.
    As an assistant, Monken and the Eagles had their ups and downs against the Paladins in the heated series between the teams.
    In 2000, Furman spoiled then top-ranked GSU’s bid at an undefeated run through the Southern Conference with a 45-10 shellacking in Greenville, S.C., though the Eagles eventually defeated Montana in the national championship game.
    In 2001, in what was ultimately then head coach Paul Johnson’s last game at GSU, Monken’s last as an assistant, and all-everything running back Adrian Peterson’s last as a player, Furman stunned the Eagles in the semifinals of the playoffs at Paulson Stadium, winning 24-17 after shutting out GSU in the second half.
    It also happened to be the first time in its history that Georgia Southern lost a playoff game in Paulson Stadium.
    Furman went on to lose to Montana in the 2001 title game.
    Saturday, Monken could be facing Furman (3-5, 2-2 SoCon) for the last time. Ever.
    The Eagles (4-3, 2-3) host the Paladins at 1 p.m., in Paulson Stadium. It is GSU’s last season in the SoCon before joining the Football Bowl Subdivision’s Sun Belt Conference in 2014.
    Georgia Southern is coming off an emotional 38-14 loss at rival Appalachian State, and the emotions have stayed around as the Eagles prepare for the Paladins.
    “I think the guys did a good job the last couple days. That doesn't mean we’re going to win the game, but at least their spirits have been good,” Monken said. “They’ve been working and pushing. They’re not licking their wounds and feeling sorry for themselves. I hope our guys don’t do that. There’s no time for that.”
    The Eagles lost their most dynamic offensive player, Jerick McKinnon, to a sprained ankle at ASU, and have had a well-documented swell of injuries throughout 2013.
    That’s no excuse, however, especially against a rival.
    “They understand that we can't lose. That’s not an option for us,” Monken said. “We’ve got to find a way to win the football game.”
    Under Monken, GSU is 3-0 against Furman and has won by an average score of 40-22. The last offensive play GSU will likely have ever run in Paladin Stadium was a two-point conversion with 20 seconds left to put the exclamation point on a 38-17 victory in 2012.
    Despite a loss last week, Furman might have built some momentum after falling 48-16 at LSU. The Paladins trailed only 20-16 at halftime.
    “Those guys know what they're doing,” Monken said about Furman. “They’re a good football team.”
    Furman has had its problems with injuries too this season, having relied heavily on three quarterbacks — Reese Hannon, Duncan Fletcher and Dillon Woodruff.
    Hannon, a sophomore, has gotten the bulk of the work and will likely start against the Eagles.
    “Good football player,” GSU co-defensive coordinator Kevin Corless said. “I think their offense has stepped up with him under center, which makes sense. (Woodruff) is a true freshman I believe, but Hannon, he’s a good football player.”
    Hannon is protected by an elite line.
    “We thought last year, even though there were a bunch of freshmen, it was one of the best offensive lines we faced all year,” Corless said. “Of course, they’re all back and they're all improved. We’ll have our hands full with them.”
    The Eagles suffered the effects of ASU’s passing game, allowing 381 yards to quarterback Kameron Bryant last Saturday. The Eagles are working to shore up their vulnerable secondary.
    “It all starts on square one,” Corless said. “It’s the pre-snap communication. It starts in practice making sure that we’re getting everybody lined up properly and everybody knows their responsibility on a given coverage or front, whatever that may be. That’s something that we’ve been working very hard at this week.”   
    McKinnon is hopeful but would likely still be dealing with the sprain on Saturday if he sees action, and the likeliest starter at B-back is freshman Irving Huggins, who had 17 carries for 70 yards during his first significant snaps against Appalachian State. Fullback William Banks is doubtful.
    “It’s rough to go from playing five snaps in a game to 60,” GSU offensive coordinator Brent Davis said about Huggins. “He really gave us everything he had, and he did a good job.”

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

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