Ezayi Youyoute answered a lot of offseason questions when he trotted out as the starting quarterback for the third-ranked Georgia Southern Eagles during the season opener against Jacksonville.
He carried the ball five times for 123 yards and a pair of touchdowns — and that was just the first quarter.
That was about how it went for the Dolphins (0-1) as the Eagles dominated all phases of the game and cruised to a 58-0 win Saturday at Paulson Stadium.
Georgia Southern coach Jeff Monken said he made the decision to go with Youyoute several daysprior to the game, and let Youyoute and junior Jerick McKinnon know Saturday which quarterback would get the nod.
Youyoute finished with 164 yards and three touchdowns, and McKinnon, who played both slotback and quarterback, had 11 rushes for 74 yards and a score of his own.
"Either one of us could have gone out there and executed," said Youyoute, a sophomore. "The coaches did a great job of getting us ready."
For everything that went right for GSU (1-0), something went wrong for the Dolphins.
On the second play of the game, Youyoute took his first carry of the season 79 yards to the house.
On the ensuing kickoff, Jacksonville’s Colby Waldon had a 97-yard return and ended up untouched in the end zone, but the play was called back when Hank Farmer threw an illegal block on GSU kicker Luke Cherry.
The drive resulted in a missed, 50-yard field goal attempt by Dylan Lynch, and that was the closest JU came to scoring.
"To shut out anybody is tough," said Monken. "That’s a good team. That’s a team that scored 86 points on the road at Valparaiso two years ago."
Georgia Southern answered the missed field goal with two more scoring drives capped off by touchdown runs of 12 yards by Youyoute and one yard by Dominique Swope.
Jacksonville got only two first downs in the first quarter, and when it finally got the second with 3:29 to go in the period, the next play was an interception by GSU’s Lavelle Westbrooks.
The Eagles finished with four interceptions.
Swope scored his second touchdown on the next GSU drive, this time from 19 yards out.
Swope finished with 105 rushing yards and a career-high three touchdowns.
The second quarter started on a high note for the Dolphins. The Eagles extended a drive with a 17-yard run by defensive lineman Josh Gebhardt on a fake punt, but lost the football three plays later when Swope fumbled a handoff.
The momentum swing didn’t last long, as the next play resulted in a pick six by GSU’s Valdon Cooper, who scored his first-career touchdown by taking the pick 60 yards for a score and a 34-0 advantage.
A one-yard touchdown plunge by Swope made it 41-0 in the half.
From there, it was mop-up time.
In the third quarter, McKinnon scored from four yards out, and Youyoute wrapped up his scoring with a one-yard touchdown.
The GSU scoring was capped off when redshirt-freshman kicker Ryan Nowicki, a transfer from Ole Miss, knocked in a 38-yard field goal.
Nowicki also made 6 of 7 extra points.
Three offensive linemen got their first-career start — Manrey Saint-Amour, Logan Daves and Garrett Frye, and paved the way for 557 Georgia Southern rushing yards, the seventh-largest total of the modern era of GSU football.
All seven touchdowns were on the ground.
"I love chasing down touchdowns," said Daves about his role on the offensive line.
In all, 15 different Eagles carried the football, and averaged 8.3 yards per carry as a team. With that many backs looking for carries, Monken doesn’t taking time worrying about egos, and certain guys getting more carries than others.
"That’s the way selfish people think," Monken said. "That’s the way a lot of the rest of the world thinks. Our football team isn’t the rest of the world. They love each other, they want Georgia Southern to win, and that’s it. If you can’t go all in for Georgia Southern, you can play for another team."
The Eagles begin Southern Conference play Saturday on the road in Charleston, S.C., when they face The Citadel at 6 p.m. Before he JU win, the last GSU shutout came against The Citadel in Charleston. The Eagles didn’t complete a pass in that game, either.
NOTES: Middle linebacker Kyle Oehlbeck and fullback Seon Jones did not play and are currently serving a two-game suspension for violation of team rules. … Along with the three offensive linemen and Youyoute, Antwione Williams (outside linebacker), Patrick Flowe (middle linebacker) and Cooper (cornerback) each made their first-career start as an Eagle. … Monken improved to 3-0 in season openers, and 3-0 in home openers. … Cooper’s interception was the first to be returned for a touchdown by a GSU player since Laron Scott did it in the 2010 playoffs against William and Mary. It was the first pick-six thrown by Jacksonville since Appalachian State took one back against the Dolphins in 2008. … Speaking of Scott, it was announced at the game that Scott, who graduated from GSU after the 2011 season, signed on with the New York Giants. … Announced attendance was 20,132. … Also announced at the game was the beginning of production of a feature film on Erk Russell and the resurrection of Georgia Southern football. The film, as announced, will be released in 2014. … With 63 rushing yards in the game, junior Robert Brown reached a milestone with 2,004 yards in his career.
Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.