Georgia Southern football coach Jeff Monken said he might use three quarterbacks against Wofford.
Jaybo Shaw, Jerick McKinnon and Ezayi “Izzy” Youyoute all could see action when No. 4 GSU (8-1, 6-1) plays No. 9 Wofford (7-2, 5-1) for the Southern Conference championship at 1 p.m. Saturday at Gibbs Stadium in Spartanburg, S.C.
Shaw, who has started all nine games at quarterback, split time with McKinnon during the Eagles’ 14-12 victory over The Citadel on Saturday.
“We had a plan going into The Citadel game to play both of those guys,” Monken said. “Didn’t have anything to do with the way Jaybo was playing. We had a plan to use those guys in different situations, different plays, different sets, different formations and I thought it was good.
“Both of those guys are good players, and they both bring different gifts and talents and strengths to our offense. We’re going to use them as we need to. May see one more than the other. And, certainly, Izzy is an option to play for us. He does a lot of great things. I think he is super-talented. He practices every day and gets lots of reps, and there’s certainly a chance we could see him Saturday, too.”
Another option team
After allowing 239 yard rushing against The Citadel’s triple-option offense, GSU will face a Wofford triple-option attack that generated a season-high 500 yards rushing in a 42-24 victory over Western Carolina on Saturday.
“I think it’s a misnomer to think that teams that run the option on offense are automatically going to be better at defending it,” said Monken, whose Eagles run the triple-option. “We’ve had our struggles with Wofford in the past. We had plenty of struggles on Saturday with The Citadel.
“In spring practice and preseason camp, you square off plenty against each other, and that gives you a good foundation for defending it, but then once you start the season you get prepared each week for the opponent that you’re going to face, and defending the option gets put on the backburner a little bit.”
Wofford junior fullback Eric Breitenstein ran for 112 yards against Western Carolina. It was the eighth time this season he ran for more than 100 yards. Breitenstein has run for 1,139 yards and 15 touchdowns this season.
“Jeezul Pete, that kid’s a load,” Monken said of the 5-foot-11, 225-pound Walter Payton Award candidate. “He’s hard to tackle. He’s got good speed and there’s a reason he’s the (preseason offensive) player of the year in the league.”
Wofford leads the Football Championship Subdivision in rushing with 374.22 yards per game.
If GSU beats Wofford, the defending SoCon champion, it will be the Eagles’ first league title since 2004 and their first league title outright since 2002.
GSU is tied with West Virginia in the all-time SoCon championship standings with eight. The Eagles have won the title outright five times and have shared it three times since joining the league in 1993.
“We’re just pleased that we have an opportunity to be in a game like this,” Monken said. “We’re trying to get our guys prepared, and get them prepared to play better than we have the last couple Saturdays. And we’ll see if we can go up there and make a game of it.”
If Wofford beats GSU, the Terriers can earn at least a share of the title Saturday. Wofford also would have to beat Chattanooga in its regular-season finale Nov. 19 to win the SoCon championship outright.
GSU is 10-7 against Wofford. The last five games have been decided by a total of 14 points. Last season, the Eagles lost, 33-31, to the Terriers in Statesboro in the regular season but won, 23-20, in the NCAA quarterfinals in Spartanburg, S.C.
The road team has won the last six games in the series, dating to 2006.
“There’s been some really close football games lately in this rivalry,” Monken said. “Obviously, both games last year. One was a two-point difference and the other was a three-point difference. There’s been close games before that, and the year before that.”
GSU All-America nose tackle Brent Russell practiced with the Eagles this week after serving a one-game suspension against The Citadel, his punishment for an unspecified violation of team rules.
Russell is expected to play. He and Wofford defensive lineman Ameet Pall were chosen SoCon Preseason Co-Defensive Players of the Year.
Russell is a half-sack shy of tying Freddy Pesqueira for fifth place on GSU’s all-time sacks list. Pesqueira made 19.5 sacks from 1999-2002 and helped the Eagles win two national championships.
Noell Barnidge can be reached at (912) 489-9408.