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Bulldogs look to improve to 4-1 against GSU in Southern Conference play
Photo by Scott Bryant/staff

    In the five years Samford has been a member of the Southern Conference, coach Pat Sullivan has become one of the most respected coaches in the league.
    No one has greater respect for Sullivan than Georgia Southern coach Jeff Monken, and it’s not because Sullivan won the Heisman Trophy while playing quarterback at Auburn.
    “He’s done a great job there,” Monken said. “His teams are well coached, solid. I think Pat believes this is the best team he’s had there.”
    The Bulldogs (4-0, 2-0) are unbeaten and ranked 25th in the FCS Coaches Poll which has the Eagles (2-1, 1-1) ranked ninth.
    The Eagles are No. 11 in the media poll.
    Georgia Southern has the longest home winning streak among conference teams and will be looking to extend it to 13 straight at 6 p.m. on Saturday when it takes on Samford which is the SoCon’s co-leader with The Citadel..
    The last team to beat the Eagles at home was Samford two years ago. Although Georgia Southern leads the overall series, 4-3, the Bulldogs are 3-1 against the Eagles in conference play.
    Georgia Southern is coming off a 26-23 win over Elon that wasn’t decided until the final minute while Samford erased an 11-point fourth quarter deficit to win at Western Carolina, 25-21.
    “Obviously, it was a big, big win for us,” Sullivan said. “It was a different (Western) team than we’ve played in the last several years. It was a tough environment, and then we went out and encouraged them. We got a penalty on the kickoff, and then fumbled on a pass from the end zone on the first play of the game.
    “We hung and hung in there and outscored them in the fourth quarter. It was a feeling I have not had with our football team since I’ve been here.
    “Even though we were down and things didn’t look good I had all the confidence in the world we were going to find a way to win the game. I think our kids kind of adopted that, and believed that.”
    Samford was led by tailback Fabian Truss who ran for 180 yards and two touchdowns and caught five passes for 23 yards. For his efforts Truss was the SoCon’s Offensive Player of the Week.
    “They’re a really good football team,” Monken said. “People say they would like to have a balanced attack. They have a really balanced offense:  they’re averaging 172 yards a game rushing, and 213 passing. That’s as balanced as you can get.
    “We just try to balance running left and right the same number of times.”
    Georgia Southern is averaging a conference best 403 yards rushing per game while Samford is allowing only 112. The Eagles lead the SoCon in total defense at 263.3 yards per game.
    Truss is one of the top running backs in the SoCon at 112 yards per game, and he leads in kick returns at 34.8 yards per game, which is also fourth in the nation.
    Quarterback Andy Summerlin is 89-for-123 for 817 yards and four touchdowns. He has been picked off three times. Samford has four receivers with double digit receptions led by Kelsey Pope’s 20 catches for 204 yards.
    “I don’t want this to sound cocky or anything, but it doesn’t surprise me,” Sullivan said when asked about his team’s unbeaten start. “We’ve been a work in progress.
    “It’s been a building process for us,” Sullivan said. “We’ve gotten better every year. I think this is the best football team we’ve had since I’ve been here. We’re still young in some areas, but I’m really excited to see where we are going to go with this.”
    Four of the Bulldogs’ next five games are against teams ranked in the top 25.
    “We’ll see where we are, but I like our football team,” Sullivan said. “I think it’s got a lot of character, and if we stay healthy we got a chance.”