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Notebook: Eagles ready for 'Banged-Up Bowl' in Gainesville

Notebook: Eagles ready for 'Banged-Up Bowl' in Gainesville

Notebook: Eagles ready for 'Banged-Up Bowl' in Gainesville

Florida quarterback Skyler Mornhinweg...


    Off the field, the Florida Gators can relate to Georgia Southern.
    Both teams started the season ranked in their respective division’s top-25, and they’ve both had injury-riddled, disappointing seasons.
    The Eagles (6-4) dressed only 52 scholarship players — including 19 freshmen — in their first road win of the season at Elon last Saturday, and the Gators (4-6) were out seven starters and were down to third-string quarterback Skyler Mornhinweg in Saturday’s 19-14 loss against No. 10 South Carolina. It was their fifth-straight loss.
    Georgia Southern senior quarterback Jerick McKinnon missed the Elon game while recovering from a sprained ankle.
    “It was kind of tough to sit on the sidelines last week,” McKinnon said about the 38-20 win. “The team did a great job overall and I was glad to be on the sidelines giving them some support, being a fan. That’s all I could do really.”
    If it’s up to McKinnon, there’s no way he’ll miss playing in the last game of his career — a 2 p.m., kickoff against Florida on Saturday at 2 p.m., in Gainesville, Fla.
    “I got to, I got to,” McKinnon said. “This is the last game, the last chance I’ll have to play with this great group of brothers. I could be missing a leg, two arms, a kidney, it doesn’t matter. Some way, somehow, I’m going to try to do something.”
    Georgia Southern played its last league game as a member of the Southern Conference against Elon, and even though GSU will join the Football Bowl Subdivision Sun Belt Conference in 2014, GSU coach Jeff Monken isn’t ready to say he’s bringing an FBS team to Gainesville. Not yet.
    “With the team we have, it’s a little hard to consider ourselves an FBS team right now. We’re just torn to shreds with injuries and young guys,” he said.
    As for Florida, “They’re going to be the most talented team we’ve faced this year,” Monken said. “We’re just going to give it everything we’ve got. We’re going to try to prepare, practice and try to go win the football game, just as we do every week.”
    The outlook for McKinnon still isn’t clear.
    “He practiced today,” Monken said. “He’s not full speed. He doesn’t look great, but hopefully as this week goes along he’ll get better and that’s what we’re hoping for.”
    Whatever happens, it will be the last game as an Eagle for McKinnon and the team’s 21 other seniors.
    “I’ve kind of played it in my head, but there’s no telling how it’s going to work out,” McKinnon said. “I know it’ll be emotional when the clock strikes zero and the seniors realize it’s over, our time here is done. All we can really do is sit back, smile and think about all we accomplished over our duration. I don’t know how I’m going to take it yet, but I’m pretty sure my emotion is going to get the best of me.”

Climbing the record books
    If McKinnon plays, he’ll have the chance to climb even higher in the all-time rushing record books at Georgia Southern. McKinnon has 3,774 rushing yards in his career. He needs 61 against Florida to match the Eagles’ No. 4 all-time rusher, Jayson Foster (3,835) and 102 to match Joe Ross (3,876). Only Adrian Peterson (6,559) and Jermaine Austin (5,411)  rank higher than Ross.
    “I’m just blessed to be named among those players that came through this school — Tracy Ham, all he’s done for this school — Jayson Foster, Adrian Peterson, all those guys,” McKinnon said.

SoCon honors
    Redshirt freshman Kevin Ellison, who took every snap at QB for the Eagles on Saturday, was awarded SoCon Offensive Player of the Week.
    Ellison rushed for a career-high 163 yards and a pair of touchdowns against Elon, and passed for 104 yards.
    He’s not sure if he’ll be taking all the snaps at QB again against Florida, or if it will be McKinnon.
    “We’ll see what happens,” Ellison said.

Inside info
    Former Georgia Southern quarterback Jaybo Shaw, now a graduate assistant coach for GSU, got some inside info about the Gators.
    His brother, Conner Shaw, was the quarterback for South Carolina in last Saturday’s win over Florida.
    “I definitely talked to him as soon as the game was over,” Jaybo Shaw said. “Nothing too extravagant. I talked to him about who he thought was the best defensive player, things like that.”

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

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