ELON, N.C. — Georgia Southern had an answer to everything Elon threw its way.
The No. 1-ranked Eagles rushed for 300 yards, stonewalled the Phoenix running game and got three touchdown passes out of quarterback Jaybo Shaw as they cruised to a 41-14 win over Elon Saturday at Rhodes Stadium.
Shaw (6 of 10, 110 yards) sat out of most of the second half of the previous game, a 52-20 win over Western Carolina, with a bruised knee, but returned to action Saturday, fighting his way to 28 rushing yards on 13 carries and throwing touchdown passes to fullback Dominique Swope and slotbacks Johnathan Bryant and Nico Hickey.
"It's my job to get the ball to the A-backs and receivers," said Shaw. "They make the plays."
Swope, who started in place of Robert Brown, scored the first two Georgia Southern (4-0, 3-0 Southern Conference) touchdowns, but it was Elon (3-2, 1-1) who struck first.
After the teams traded punts to open the game, Phoenix quarterback Thomas Wilson (22-38, 202 yards) led a seven-play scoring drive on which he completed six passes, the last of which to tight end Taylor Berry for a 10-yard touchdown.
They didn't trail for long, but it was the defense that stole the momentum.
"It just let us know that it was time to get it going," said GSU cornerback Laron Scott about the Elon touchdown. "They ran a lot of crossing routes and the quarterback was poised. He was going to put it on the money, so it was a challenge trying to stay with those guys."
Georgia Southern stalled on the drive that followed the Elon touchdown, punting after a three-and-out, but defensive end John Douglas put an end to the ensuing Elon drive by tipping a Wilson pass into the air, catching it and returning it 33 yards to the Phoenix 5-yard line.
"It really changed the whole intensity on the sidelines," said GSU coach Jeff Monken about the interception, the first of three forced by the Eagles. "It was a big play."
Swope (15-74) rushed for a score on the next offensive play.
Adrian Mora tacked on a 37-yard field goal on the next possession to make it 10-7 on a drive set up by a Josh Rowe interception. Rowe's pick was a result of a tipped pass by Deion Stanley.
Wilson passed for 118 yards in the first quarter, but went 0 for 6 in the second.
Elon went three-and-out three times in the second quarter, and the Eagles capitalized twice. Swope caught a 12-yard touchdown pass to make the score 17-7, and Bryant caught a seven-yard pass over the middle for the second touchdown of the quarter.
Elon's final charge was a 20-yard touchdown reception by wide receiver Aaron Mellette at the beginning of the third quarter to cut the GSU advantage to 24-14.
With the Phoenix running game producing next to nothing - the Eagles held them to only 54 yards on 19 carries — Mellette was as good as advertised. He caught nine passes for 104 yards, accounting for more than half of Wilson's passing total.
"That Mellette kid is good," said Monken. "Gosh, he's a good player. He caught some balls. We had people on him and they played tighter and took some chances. That was good to see, and I thought we played better when we did that."
The Eagles answered Mellette's touchdown immediately.
Scott returned the kickoff 43 yards, and Robert Brown combined with J.J. Wilcox for 28 yards on the drive to set up Shaw's third touchdown pass of the game, a 25-yard strike to Nico Hickey.
Brown rushed for 119 yards on 11 carries, and scored the final touchdown of the game from 23 yards out in the fourth quarter.
Backup quarterback Ezayi Youyoute entered the game on the next drive and fumbled on back-to-back plays, the second resulting in a turnover.
After a failed fourth down conversion by Elon, Youyoute pitched to Swope, and it was mishandled to the third-straight fumble. It was recovered, and Swope banged out 35 yards on seven plays while Youyoute orchestrated a 15 play, 8:50 drive that nearly ended the game.
"The more time we can get him in the game, the better he's going to get," Monken said about Youyoute, "and it was nice to see him in the game."
Mora's second field goal of the day provided the final margin.
The Eagles return to action Saturday at Paulson Stadium against Chattanooga at 3 p.m.
: Sophomore Jerick McKinnon did not travel with the team after suffering a broken hand earlier in the week. Monken is hopeful he will return for Saturday's matchup against UTC. ... Mora's two field goals game him 51 in his career, a new GSU record. The previous record of 50 is held by Tim Foley. ... Shaw's three touchdown passes matched a career high. ... Elon's first-quarter touchdown marked the first time this season the Eagles have trailed in a game. It didn't last long. The Eagles trailed for 2:06 before tying the game, and never looked back. ... Stanley started for the second time this season, this time in place of injured Derek Heyden. ... Announced attendance was 7,195.