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Eagles answer questions in first game
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Georgia Southern defensive end Josh Gebhardt, left, throws a stiff arm to pick up a first down on a fake punt in the second quarter. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

 

Georgia Southern has made a run to the Football Championship Subdivision semifinals in each of the last two seasons. If Saturday night was any indication, that same success and more is on the Eagles’ minds in 2012.

GSU hardly seemed to break a sweat in administering a 58-0 waxing of Jacksonville. And keep in mind that this wasn’t some lower level patsy hired to come into town and give the Paulson Stadium something to feel good about. The Dolphins are defending champions of the Pioneer Conference – a conference that receives an automatic bid to the FCS playoffs this season – and are expected to contend for another title this season.

Not to get everyone into too much of a frenzy so early in the season, but Saturday’s performance by the Eagles was everything that a GSU fan could have hoped for — and then, much, much more.

Throughout fall camp, the burning question was whether Ezayi Youyoute or Jerick McKinnon would be the starting quarterback. Given the nod on Saturday, Youyoute made the most of his opportunity. He ripped off a 79 yard touchdown run on the second play of the game and racked up 164 yards on the ground. McKinnon wasn’t under center, but was just as effective with 71 rushing yards and a touchdown.

Dominique Swope — whose spot at B-back was never in doubt — scored three times and topped the 100-yard mark.

It’s safe to say that no matter who is calling the shots or who ends up with the ball, the Eagles are in good hands.

With the departure of Laron Scott to the NFL, there were concerns about the Eagles’ defensive secondary. With numerous options at slotback, J.J. Wilcox — already known for his crushing blocks — was moved across the line of scrimmage.

All he did was haul in an interception in his first game as a defender at the collegiate level.

The offensive line was plagued by injuries throughout fall camp, but showed up in top form against Jacksonville. Huge holes were made all night to allow the Eagles to rush for 557 yards and — even though GSU didn’t complete a pass Saturday — there was plenty of time to throw on every drop back.

As the Eagles put the game out of reach early, it seemed as if they made a conscious effort to answer all of the pressing questions that hung over them entering the season.

Those who claimed that indecision at quarterback is a sign of not having a go-to guy at the position saw that Jeff Monken’s only problem was deciding which of two tremendous athletes got to call the plays in the huddle.

Concerns about the defense were eased as the Eagles’ depth in the linebacking corps and secondary proved to be up to the challenge of stopping a spread passing attack in its tracks.

Step by step, piece by piece, Georgia Southern proved on Saturday exactly why so many throughout the nation have picked this team as a front-runner to contend for the national championship.

All of the early questions were answered in a loud and convincing matter.

Now, the only question that remains is whether or not the Eagles can keep it going.

 

Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.