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Monken savors title, prepares for Bama


Jeff Monken on Tuesday reflected on Georgia Southern’s 31-10 victory over Wofford to win the Southern Conference championship Saturday.

The Eagles’ second-year head coach also looked ahead to GSU’s game against the University of Alabama at 2 p.m. Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Alabama reportedly will pay GSU $400,000 to play the game.

"I thought it was a tremendous football game," Monken said of the Eagles’ performance against the Terriers at Gibbs Stadium in Spartanburg, S.C. "Our kids were ready to play and it certainly appeared that theirs were, too. There were a lot of guys running into each other and playing really hard, and playing good football. The level of respect that we have for the Wofford program, I mean, those guys, we told our team all week that if we weren’t ready to go and if we didn’t play our best game that Wofford is a team that can embarrass you."

GSU freshman wide receiver Zach Walker produced perhaps the Eagles’ biggest play of the season on third-and-10. He caught quarterback Jaybo Shaw’s screen pass, shook off a defender and dove for the pylon to give GSU a 10-7 lead at halftime.

"On the last play before half, we were just hoping to gain a few extra yards and get the ball out of bounds and kick a field goal," Monken said. "We had a true freshman who caught a pass out there and probably he’s naive enough that he was fortunate to make the corner miss and ran the thing in and dove across for a touchdown, and we went up at halftime. I thought that was a momentum boost for our team. And we needed it. Wofford was doing a great job of stopping us."

GSU improved to 9-1 overall, 7-1 in the SoCon. It was the Eagles’ ninth SoCon championship since joining the league in 1993, its first since 2004 (shared it with Furman) and its first outright since 2002.

GSU earned the SoCon’s automatic bid into the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs. The Eagles likely will receive a first-round bye and probably will host a second-round playoff game Dec. 3. The FCS playoff pairings will be announced Sunday.

But first GSU must play Alabama (9-1, 6-1 Southeastern Conference), which is ranked third in the Bowl Championship Series standings, as well as in all major polls. GSU is 0-15 against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents.

"Perhaps the best football team in the country right now," Monken said. "I know they have a loss to LSU, but for everybody that watched that game, Alabama certainly had opportunities to win. They had a touchdown pass that kind of got broken up there. They had a receiver run a post route and they didn’t get points there. They missed a couple of long field goals, which are tough field goals to make."

Alabama limits its opponents to 7.1 points per game. The Crimson Tide have allowed double-digit scoring only three times in 10 games: Arkansas (14 points), Penn State (11 points) and Florida (10 points). Alabama has shut out two teams: North Texas (41-0) and Vanderbilt (34-0).

"We make yards by running the football," Monken said. "They hold opponents to 51.9 yards per game rushing. And they are so far superior at every position, it just, I don’t know. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

"They are just a great, great football team. And as well-coached as anybody in the country. Nick Saban has proven himself as a football coach. And you’d get no arguments saying that his teams are some of the best-coached in college football. We’ve got a tremendous challenge on our hands to go there just to have an opportunity to be in the ball game and not be completely embarrassed."


Wofford up against the wall

Wofford (7-3, 5-2) must beat Chattanooga (5-5, 3-4) at 2 p.m. Saturday at Finley Stadium in Chattanooga, Tenn., to get its seventh FCS victory and become eligible for the playoffs.

The Terriers’ 47-14 win against Virginia-Wise doesn’t apply because Virginia-Wise is not an FCS team.


Other intriguing games

Appalachian State (7-3, 5-2) likely will receive an at-large bid into the FCS playoffs. The Mountaineers will play Elon (5-5, 3-4) at 3 p.m. Saturday at Rhodes Stadium in Elon, N.C.

The Citadel (4-6, 2-6) will play South Carolina (8-2) at noon Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, S.C.

Samford (6-4, 4-4) will play Auburn (6-4) at 1 p.m. Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala.

Furman (6-4, 5-3) will play Florida (5-5) at 1 p.m. Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Fla.


Noell Barnidge can be reached at (912) 489-9408.