St. Francis dominated time of possession all evening long. Unfortunately for the red Flash, that was because Georgia Southern kept scoring.
The Eagles had 13 drives, and averaged only four plays per drive as they scored early and often against visiting St. Francis and won 59-17 on Saturday at Paulson Stadium.
The Red Flash (0-1) held the football for 17 minutes longer than GSU, but punted five times, while GSU punted only once on its first drive of the game.
GSU (2-0) churned out offense for the second-straight week, amassing 551 total yards. Starting quarterback Jerick McKinnon and backup Kevin Ellison combined to complete 8 of 10 passes for 245 yards, the Eagles’ most under fourth-year head coach Jeff Monken.
Junior fullback Dominique Swope was held out after injuries suffered during the week’s practice.
“We just felt like we needed to hold him,” Monken said. “He was experiencing some pain, so we held him back to just try to get him healthy for next week. He could have played. He said, ‘I’ll play,’ but there’s no use in him going in there and dinging it more, and hopefully we’ll get him ready for next week.”
In his place was senior William Banks, who matched his career high with three rushing touchdowns and rushed for 72 yards, including a 46-yard trot that opened the third-quarter scoring.
“He did an excellent job,” McKinnon said about Banks. “What did he have, two touchdowns, three touchdowns? I just gave him the ball. Every time you have an athlete like him and you can give him the ball, it makes my job a lot easier.”
Things didn’t slow down until the third string was in the game in the fourth quarter, and even then, the scoring didn’t stop.
Alex Hanks shook off the kicking curse with GSU’s first field goal of the season in the third quarter, a 29-yard kick that made the score 46-7.
True freshman Younghoe Koo kicked a 38-yard field goal in the fourth, and Hanks added a 31-yarder in the fourth.
“I made a decision this week that I was going to kick Younghoe,” Monken said. “I was going to put him in the game. The best way to get prepared to play in a football game, is to get in the football game and play. I didn’t make him the kicker, but I put him in there on an extra point, put him in there on a field goal and put him in there on a kickoff. We rolled those guys. For a freshman, that takes some of the pressure off of him, to not have to be ‘the guy.’”
It was the first time since the Eagles faced Wofford in the quarterfinals of the 2010 playoffs that the team made three field goals.
As if GSU couldn’t find enough ways to score, Koo kicked off into the end zone after a 50-yard bomb from starting quarterback Jerick McKinnon found a wide open Montay Crockett for a touchdown and gave the Eagles a 41-7 lead. St. Francis’ Anthony Abeid muffed the kickoff, and Dane Domonkos recovered it at the 1-yard line, but reentered the end zone and tried to down it, resulting in a safety.
Torrance Hunt led the Eagles offensively with 79 rushing yards and a touchdown, and added a 56-yard catch that he broke down the sideline, but was pushed out of bounds.
“I would loved to have scored on that catch,” Hunt said. “I tried.”
Hunt, on the season, is averaging 12.7 yards per rush with 152 yards on 12 carries.
Georgia Southern’s offense was quick scoring in the first half, but St. Francis was efficient enough to limit the Eagles to only five first-half drives. The Eagles capitalized plenty after the first drive, which featured an eight yard fumble by Banks and ended with a booming, 56-yard punt by Ryan Nowicki that was nearly downed at the 1-yard line before rolling into the end zone.
After that, the Eagles scored four touchdowns on drives of three, three, five and four plays, respectively.
Georgia Southern ran only 20 plays in the first half, including touchdown runs by Hunt (46 yards), Banks (15) and Johnathan Bryant (5), as well as a wide open, 35-yard pass from McKinnon to Kentrellis Showers.
St. Francis, meanwhile, dominated time of possession during the first two quarters, holding the ball for 24:28 to GSU’s 5:32.
The longest drive of the game came in the second quarter, when the Red Flash bled the Eagles for a 16-play, 74-yard drive that ate up 7:46, and saw St, Francis convert three third downs, including 3rd-and-12 from the 26. Quarterback Max Ward hit Abeid with a 24-yard pass down to the GSU 2.
“I think they made us a better team today, especially on that drive,” said GSU safety Deion Stanley, who recorded his second interception of the season at the close of the second quarter. “They showed us things we need to work on, things we need to approve on.”
Two plays later, Khari Dickson punched it in from a yard out and cut the Eagles’ lead to 20-7 with 44 seconds left in the half.
That was plenty of time for the Eagles to score again, using a 41-yard bomb from Ellison to B.J. Johnson, which set up a five yard run off a late option pitch to Bryant with 17 seconds left to put the Eagles ahead 27-7 at the half.
The Eagles open Southern Conference play on Saturday at 7 p.m., against Wofford in Spartanburg, S.C.
Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.