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My Take: Eagles learned a lot from season-opening win

The Georgia Southern Eagles spent the entire offseason hearing from polls, fans and the media about how good they are.
    It took exactly two quarters to shake off all that stuff and take care of business.
    The Eagles out-scored Samford 24-10 in the second half and finally, after entering year four of SU's Southern Conference membership, beat the Bulldogs.
    There were some new wrinkles in the offense and a lot of mistakes on both sides of the ball, but when all was said and done, GSU went on the road and opened the season with a conference win.
    There were some surprises that were both good and bad.

The good
Jerick McKinnon.

    Both of sophomore Jerick McKinnon's touchdowns came as a running back, but for all intents and purposes, he lined up at every offensive skill position on the field.
    Last season, he was deceptively fast. Now, he's just fast.
    On Laron Scott's 99-yard kickoff return, McKinnon outran him to throw the last block on the kicker.
    On paper, McKinnon is the backup quarterback. In reality, he's a weapon that can open things up for this offense.

Robert Brown.
    Robert Brown had a quiet 140-yard rushing day.
    Yes, he fumbled again, something he did 11 times in 2010, but when he was holding onto the football he got every single yard he possibly could. He's hard to tackle, he's got speed, he's got vision and he's got the skill set to far surpass the 1,004 yards he rushed for last season.
    When he gets all his blocks, big things happen and when he doesn't, he still makes good things happen.
    He didn't lose yardage on any of his 20 carries.

Deion Stanley.
    With Lavelle Westbrooks banged up for the opener, Deion Stanley got the start. He deserved it. His 10 tackles tied for the team lead.

Hudson Presume.
    Watching Hudson Presume pick off a Dustin Taliaferro pass was validating considering the injury-filled career he's had so far.
    The same could be said when slotback Johnathan Bryant hauled in a 42-yard pass from Jaybo Shaw and shake-and-baked his way to some extra yardage.

The bad

    Brown's fumble wasn't the only one. There were four.
    Fortunately, Samford had some first-game jitters of its own and the mistakes ended up being neutralized by Bulldog penalties for the most part, but obviously, that can't keep happening.

The secondary.
    As good as each member of the secondary preformed individually, Taliaferro had a pretty good day throwing the football, going 24 of 39 for 277 yards.
    It's a good thing Stanley and Derek Heyden were back there, but the pair combined for 20 tackles and the secondary was responsible for exactly half of the team's tackles.
    Not necessarily a good sign.

The neutral
The unmentionable formation.

    Georgia Southern fans and the shotgun formation have a rocky, four-year history that the Eagle Nation wishes it could just forget about.
    It looks like that may not happen.
    A lot of it was just a new look for the same-old option stuff, but there was some dropback-passing, zone-reading, shovel-pass-tossing, empty-backfield goodness mixed in too.
    And yet somehow, someway, the Eagles managed to move the football with it.
    Yeah, it just might be here to stay.

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