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All eyes forward for GSU Eagles
McKinnon Scores
Jerick McKinnon finishes off an eight-yard Georgia Southern touchdown run in the first quarter against The Citadel in this Saturday, Sept. 8, file photo, in Charleston, S.C. The Eagles eventually missed a field goal as time ran out and lost, 23-21, in the Southern Conference opener. - photo by JEFF BAST/Special to the Herald

    The Georgia Southern Eagles don’t have a game to prepare for on Saturday.
    After losing on the road in the Southern Conference opener, 23-21, last Saturday against The Citadel, a team which the Eagles were heavily favored to beat, it hasn’t been easy to look ahead to the Elon game, which won’t take place until Saturday, Sept. 22, at Paulson Stadium.
    The No. 11 Eagles (1-1, 0-1 Southern Conference) had the Sunday and Monday following the Citadel game off.
    “It was a tough three days,” said GSU coach Jeff Monken. “I know I’ve struggled. You watch every play, you analyze each decision, and you’re searching for a way to make yourself feel better about losing the football game. The fact is, there’s just no way to feel better about losing the football game.”
    “It was hard, there were a lot of tears shed and it’s hard to see your brothers down after a defeat, but we did a good job of picking each other up,” said senior safety J.J. Wilcox. “Coach Monken did a good job with us, and I think it was a wake-up call.”
    When the team returned to the practice field on Tuesday, Monken’s message was clear.
    “It’s over, put it in the rearview mirror, put it on the back burner, we can’t worry about it, move on,” said Monken. “The next game’s coming and we’ve got to get ready for it.”
    For the team, it’s been all about correcting mistakes.
    “What we did wrong was pretty apparent on Saturday — holding on to the football, missing blocking schemes and stuff like that — and we just need to execute better,” said quarterback Ezayi Youyoute.
    The bye week provides time for the slotbacks to return to full strength. Against The Citadel, Darreion Robinson was banged up after being injured on a punt return in the season opener against Jacksonville on Sept. 1, and Robert Brown missed practice on Wednesday before the Citadel game for a family matter.
    “It just didn’t feel like mentally he was ready for the assignments if things were going to change,” Monken said about Brown. “We would have really liked to get (Jerick McKinnon) some more snaps at quarterback, but with Darreion injured — he just didn’t quite come back from that Saturday night when he hurt his knee — and not being able to put Robert in there, we had to use Jerick at slotback.”
    The Eagles hope to put last Saturday’s game behind them moving forward, but they’ll make sure not to completely forget about it.
    “I think it opened our eyes a little bit and let us know, hey, every time you step out on the field you’ve got to bring your best play,” said Wilcox.
    “We’re always going to keep it on the back of our mind,” added Youyoute, “keep a chip on our shoulder for motivation throughout the rest of the season.”

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