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GSU preparing for slightly-more-balanced Elon
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Georgia Southern defensive tackle Brent Russell, center, searches out an Elon ball carrier in this Saturday, Sept. 25, 2010, file photo. The Eagles won, 38-21. The Eagles, looking for their first Southern Conference win, face Elon Saturday at 6 p.m. at Paulson Stadium. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

Elon (2-1) at No. 11 GSU (1-1, 0-1)
Saturday, 6 p.m.
Paulson Stadium
TV: None
Radio: 103.7 FM

    It’s often said that a football game is won in the trenches.
    Whether a team likes to run it or throw it, that’s usually the case.
    When No. 11 Georgia Southern plays host to Elon Saturday at 6 p.m. in Paulson Stadium, the Eagles will be facing a quarterback in Thomas Wilson who likes to throw it around.
    GSU’s defensive line will be focused on the pass rush, but that doesn’t mean Elon (2-1, 0-0 Southern Conference) can’t find other ways to move the football.
    The Phoenix have had three different running backs carry the football 35 times each for a combined 474 yards, and even Wilson can tuck and run when the lane is there.
    “When lanes get big and you’ve got them covered, he can pull the ball down,” said GSU defensive coordinator Jack Curtis, “so we’ve got to do a great job of containing him and retracing our steps when he pulls that ball down.”
    While Elon is traditionally considered a passing offense, second-year head coach Jason Swepson, whose role Saturday has yet to be determined after he missed last Saturday’s game against West Virginia State with chest pains, has overseen an Elon team that takes the running game more seriously.
    “More (running) this year than I’ve seen in the past,” said GSU head coach Jeff Monken of Elon’s offense.
    Though the Eagles (1-1, 0-1) run an option, running offense, Monken said the GSU defense is geared to stopping more traditional offenses.
    “When (the defensive coaches) are installing a base defense,” Monken said, “it’s more along the lines of how to defend teams like Elon and Jacksonville and teams like that, more-so than our own offense, because nine times a year we face a more traditional type of offense, and twice we face an option offense.”
    Senior quarterback Russell DeMasi has been running Elon’s offense for the scout team, which has had its hands full simulating an offense which has completed passes to 11 different players this year.
    “We’ve got some good receivers and they’re giving us a good picture, but we’re always having to play a little catchup,” Curtis said. “You don’t see it at game tempo. … The thing we have to improve on is our eyes. (Monday at practice) we turned a couple people lose, and we can’t do that.”
    The Eagles lost their SoCon opener to The Citadel, 23-21, on Sept. 8, and for senior defensive tackle Brent Russell, the mindset is similar to what it was in 2010 when GSU lost to Samford at Paulson Stadium and fell to 4-4 before reeling off six-straight wins and a trip to the Football Championship Subdivision semifinals.
    “We’re treating every game like a playoff game from now on out,” Russell said. “That’s the way we did it (in 2010) after the Samford loss, and it turned out pretty good for us.”

    Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.