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GSU changing gears against The Citadel
Eagles celebrate Military Appreciation Day
Georgia Southern will celebrate Military Appreciation Day when it hosts The Citadel on Saturday, at 1 p.m., at Paulson Stadium. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/file

The Citadel (2-4, 2-2) at Georgia Southern (3-2, 1-2)

Saturday — Paulson Stadium, 1 p.m.

    Georgia Southern’s defense had to spend the week changing gears as it prepared to take on The Citadel.
    Last week the Eagles gave up 495 passing yards in a 44-34 loss at Samford as quarterback Andy Summerlin completed 23 of 42 passes.
    Georgia Southern will face another set of Bulldogs at 1 p.m., today at Paulson Stadium, but the offensive approach will be vastly different.
    The Citadel (2-4, 2-2), like the Eagles (3-2, 1-1), run the triple option, but it throws the ball more frequently — 83 attempts to the Eagles’ 54 — and when push comes to shove it prefers running the football.
    However, while his team be facing a team similar to it in offensive philosophy, GSU coach Jeff Monken said that does not mean it made for an easy week.
    “Although we’re an option team that doesn’t necessarily make it any easier,” Monken said. “We work on it (defending the option) in the spring and in pre-season, but once the season starts we spend our time getting ready for other teams. We’ve got to put a plan together, and prepare for a different defensive front than we’ve seen all year. They really do a terrific job. They play motivated football, and teams like that are hard to beat.”
    And, Monken knows of what he speaks.
    The Citadel pulled off a 23-21 win last year, and Georgia Southern narrowly escaped with a 14-12 win at Paulson two years ago when the Bulldogs missed a field goal in the closing seconds. The Eagles also blocked two extra point attempts in that game.
    Three years ago in Monken’s first year at Georgia Southern the Eagles pulled out a 20-0 win as the Bulldogs self-destructed with two interceptions and nine fumbles, seven of which they lost.
    The Citadel has been a tough luck team this year:  three of its losses have been by seven points or less. Wofford beat Citadel, 21-10, but didn’t ice it until it scored a touchdown with six minutes left.
    Last week the Bulldogs got a lift when they beat Appalachian State, 31-28, in overtime.
    “That’s two years in a row they beat Appalachian State, and that’s hard to do for anybody,” Monken said.
    Last year Citadel became the first SoCon team to beat Georgia Southern and Appalachian State on back-to-back weekends since the Eagles joined the conference in 1993.
    “SoCon wins are hard to come by,” Citadel Coach Kevin Higgins said. “We needed a win having been in a lot of close games. We were fortunate to get it into overtime, and be able to make a play.”
    The Bulldogs have two of the leading rushers in the conference in fullback Darien Robinson with 536 yards, and quarterback Ben Dupree with 519. Dupree has also completed 22-of-38 passes for 294 yards and two touchdowns.
    He has scored 10 touchdowns.
    One of The Citadel’s most painful losses was a 59-58 decision at Old Dominion where it scored with less than two minutes to play and chose to go for the two-point conversion only to come up short.
    Robinson had 227 yards rushing against the Monarchs, the top individual effort in the SoCon this season. For his career Robinson has 2,505 yards, and Dupree has 2,003 career rushing yards.
    Higgins is not reading anything into the 695 yards Samford rolled up against Georgia Southern.
    “If a team struggles against a spread team or another team that throws it around a lot sometimes there’s not a lot of carryover,” Higgins said. “What we’re concerned about is how they will line up against us and what our matchups will look like.”
    And, of concern is when, where and how McKinnon and Kevin Ellison lineup for the Eagles.
    “We’ve had to defend him for a couple of years now, and we know what he is all about,” Higgins said of McxKinnon. “They line him up in the shotgun as a halfback, as a quarterback, and he’ll play slotback. We have to be aware of where he is.
    “Anytime he touches the football he’s got a chance to break it,” Higgins said. “I don’t think there’s many guys in the league as quick and strong as he is when he gets the ball. When Ellison is at quarterback that gives them much more flexibility in what they can do.”
    Although Georgia Southern will no longer be in the SoCon after this season the Bulldogs will make a return trip to Paulson Stadium on Sept. 19, 2015, for a reported $175,000, according to a report in the Charleston Post and Courier.