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Eagles send Bulldogs to pound
GSU pours it on in second half to soar past Samford
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Georgia Southern's Jerick McKinnon checks over his should for defenders as he breaks in the clear for a 41-yard touchdown run in the second quarter against Samford Saturday at Paulson Stadium.

Apparently, Bulldogs from Birmingham don’t like the rain.

Apparently Jerick McKinnon does.

The Georgia Southern junior who didn’t start the game at quarterback but played the better part of three quarters at the position, ran for 163 yards and two touchdowns on a wet Saturday as the Eagles beat Samford, 35-16, in Paulson Stadium for the first time since 1988.

At the suggestion of quarterbacks coach Mitch Ware, McKinnon entered the game to replace starter Ezayi Youyoute in the second quarter with the No. 10 Eagles trailing, 10-7.

"We just didn’t feel like (Youyoute) was getting in a rhythm," GSU coach Jeff Monken said. "He was struggling. He had a couple of passes that just sailed above (the receiver’s) head. He wasn’t getting in the groove in the run game, and we really just put Jerick in there to settle things down and give him an opportunity to carry the ball some. As he started to have some production, we just left him in there."

McKinnon’s second run of the game went for a 41-yard touchdown and put the Eagles ahead, 14-10.

"The first guy to congratulate him was Ezayi," said Monken. "He ran all the way down to the corner, which is a penalty," Monken laughed. "When he came back, I grabbed him and said, ‘Don’t ever do that again.’ But he was as excited as anybody on our team for Jerick when he scored."

The Bulldogs (4-1, 1-1 Southern Conference) ended a two-game winning streak at GSU’s home field.

The rain didn’t start until midway through the second quarter, but the harder it rained, the more GSU’s defense tightened up and the more Samford’s offense stalled.

From the middle the second quarter, when the rain started to fall, until the middle of the fourth, when it stopped, the Bulldogs went without a first down. The stretch lasted for 24 minutes, 36 seconds, and during the span, Samford gained only 20 yards, and went three-and-out five times.

GSU defensive lineman Brent Russell could tell the defense was playing pretty well.

"I can feel it in my legs," he said. "We hardly got tired at all, and we played like it. Having a triple-option offense when they just drive down the field and eat the clock, it helps the defense so much. That’s why we’re a pretty good defense."

The second quarter ended with six incomplete Samford passes on seven attempts, including an interception returned 72 yards for a touchdown by GSU’s Lavelle Westbrooks, which put GSU ahead, 21-10.

The Eagles’ running game (3-1, 2-1) focused on McKinnon and Dominique Swope, who combined for 295 yards and all four of GSU’s offensive touchdowns.

"The rain was a little setback," said McKinnon. "But we did better at blocking as a unit. I feel like we got better from the last game."

Samford’s only scoring in the second half came on a dropped snap by McKinnon — the third of the game — which was scooped up by Bulldogs defensive back Jaquiski Tartt and returned for 80 yards to bring the score to 21-16 in favor of GSU. Samford’s two-point attempt fell incomplete.

McKinnon made up for the miscue on GSU’s next offessive play with a 67-yard rushing touchdown to put the Eagles ahead 28-16.

The only time Samford was in the game was when the field was dry.

The first GSU drive went like clockwork, with Swope and Youyoute exchanging carries. Swope capped off the six-play, 62-yard drive with a 12-yard touchdown run.

Samford answered with a 20-yard field goal by Cameron Yaw after GSU stuffed SU running back Fabian Truss on 3rd-and-2 from the 3-yard line.

The Bulldogs took a 10-7 lead on an 11-yard pass from quarterback Andy Summerlin (23 of 49, 291 yards) to Kelsey Pope. The score was set up by a 41-yard reception over the middle by Chris Cephus.

Samford got inside the GSU 5-yard line three times in the game, but the trips resulted in Yaw’s 20-yarder and two GSU fourth-down stops.

Truss, who entered the game as the reigning SoCon offensive player of the week, was held to only 50 yards on 19 carries.




: At halftime in the rain, GSU’s 2012 Hall of Fame class was introduced. The newest members are Adrian Peterson (football), Blake Adams (golf), Julian Deal (supporter), Ray Mims and Tracy Rivers (baseball), Sharon Mitchell (women’s basketball) and Robin Thirsk (women’s soccer). … The Eagles improved their home winning streak to 13, second longest in the FCS. Samford was the last team to win in Paulson Stadium. … The 72-yard pick-six by Westbrooks was the eighth longest in GSU history. It was the second for GSU in 2012… For only the third time since 2000, the Eagles went a whole game without converting a third down. They are 3-0 in those games. … Swope has now rushed for at least one touchdown in the last five games. … McKinnon’s only completion, a 34-yard pass to Tyler Sumner, was the longest completion of his career. … Announced attendance was a season-high 20,832.


Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-4908.