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Eagles rally for the win
Late drive brings GSU back
101213 GSU FOOTBALL 04
Georgia Southern's Jerick McKinnon stretches for the goal line on a 7-yard touchdown run in the second quarter against The Citadel at Paulson Stadium Saturday. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

    Jerick McKinnon still owns the ground at Georgia Southern, but Kevin Ellison just took over the air.
    Ellison, a redshirt freshman quarterback, took over the position, passed for 138 yards and rushed for 135 as the Eagles defeated The Citadel 28-21 Saturday on Military Appreciation Day at Paulson Stadium.
    Of 60 running plays, McKinnon and Ellison combined for 57 of them, and McKinnon added 198 yards and two touchdowns.
    With fullbacks Dominique Swope and William Banks out with injury, McKinnon, the team’s starting quarterback through five games, took on the B-back role, and a bulk of the Eagles’ plays were run from the shotgun with four wideouts. Running backs Johnathan Bryant, Trey Butler and Devin Scott were used only sparingly.
    “The fact of the matter is, we’ve got 85 guys on scholarship, and 57 of them dressed out today,” GSU coach Jeff Monken said.
    McKinnon had 32 carries, after 33 a week earlier in a 44-34 loss at Samford.
    For him, it’s a good time for a bye week.
    “Yeah, the perfect time,” McKinnon said about GSU’s coming weekend off before facing Appalachian State on Oct. 26. “But it’s just another work week for us. We’ve got to get ready for App State. They’re a good team, and we need to get everybody healthy and prepared for that game.”
    Ellison looked his best on GSU’s final drive, which went 86 yards in 5 minutes, 59 seconds and resulted in the eventual game-winning touchdown — a 4-yard carry by Ellison on 3rd-and-goal.
    “We just talked to each other,” Ellison said about the final drive. “We knew we had to be calm and collected as a team, make sure to go out and execute, put points on the board. You never know what can happen, but you’ve always got to come together.”
    The Eagles (4-2, 2-2 Southern Conference) went for two, with Ellison handing the ball to McKinnon, who threw a pass to a wide open Devin Scott for the final margin.
    Ellison extended the drive on 3rd-and-7 with an 18-yard pass to Bryant, and later on 3rd-and-1, McKinnon shot up the middle on a 30-yard run to the GSU 9.
    The Bulldogs managed only 120 yards of offense in the second half, and completed only 7 of 17 passes in span, including a pair of near interceptions by GSU’s Deion Stanley and Tay Hicklin.
    The Citadel (2-5, 2-3) capitalized on the game’s only turnover midway through the fourth quarter, when a mishandled exchange between Ellison and McKinnon was fumbled, scooped up by Akeen Garnett and returned 36 yards for a touchdown and a 21-20 Bulldogs advantage.
    Bryant took a toss around the left side for a 3-yard score in the third to put GSU ahead 20-7.
    The Bulldogs answered early in the fourth, building on a 32-yard pass from backup quarterback Aaron Miller to Brandon Eakins, and scoring on a 13 yard option pitch to Terrance Martin.  
    The Citadel only managed 272 yards of offense in the game, and a bulk of its 152 first-half yards came on a few big plays. Senior quarterback Ben Dupree (9-99) scored on a career-long run, a 73-yard option keeper in the first quarter that gave the Bulldogs a 7-0 lead.
    “We were in a defense where the outside linebacker was supposed to take the quarterback, and he didn’t,” Monken said. “They almost busted it again right before the half. The exact same thing happened, but fortunately somebody got over the top and tackled the quarterback.” 
    Dupree and Dalton Travino each had a 22-yard run to round out a bulk of the Bulldogs’ offensive production. They were 0 for 5 on third down in the first half, and finished the game just 1 for 10.
    GSU answered The Citadel’s opening score after the teams traded punts, when McKinnon scampered 63 yards to the 3-yard line and punched it in two plays later to tie the game.
    McKinnon scored again in the second quarter on 4th-and-1 from the 7, but freshman kicker Younghoe Koo’s extra-point attempt was blocked.
    The drive was set up by a 45-yard pass from Ellison to wide receiver B.J. Johnson.
    Johnson led GSU with 3 catches for 73 yards.
    “He played great, and being able to have time from the offensive line and their protection gave me time to be in the pocket and throw the passes,” Ellison said.
    Were it not for a pair of bad snaps, the Eagles might have put the Bulldogs away in the first half.
    The Citadel punted five times in the first half and GSU only once, but on a 41-yard field goal attempt early in the second quarter, the snap was mishandled by GSU’s holder, Matt Dobson. He scrambled in the backfield and failed to complete a pass to Nardo Govan, who was ruled an ineligible receiver.
     Late in the second quarter leading 13-7, GSU made it back into the red zone with the help of a 48-yard run by Ellison. The Eagles elected to go for it on 4th-and-goal from the 2, but the snap to Ellison was off and Ellison was tackled for a 9 yard loss.
NOTES: True freshman defensive end Rafael Hardee started for the second-straight game. … Georgia Southern celebrated Military Appreciation Day Saturday, and as a part of the festivities, GSU Eagle Battalion Commander, LTC Gary Morea swore in 35 troops into the Army. … Eleven different unit patches representing the 3rd Infantry Division, 1st Infantry Division, 1st Marine Division, 1st Air Force, USS Missouri, USS Atlanta, 82nd Airborne, Strategic Air Command, Seal Team Six, 1st Cavalry Division and the Georgia National Guard were worn on the Eagles' uniforms. …  The Georgia Southern coaching staff also wore patches representing various branches of the Armed Forces.  … Announced attendance was 16,128.