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St. Francis hopes to keep GSU defense off balance Saturday
Savannah State wide receiver Jake Durham, center, finds himself surrounded by Georgia Southern defenders after catching a short pass in the second quarter on Saturday at Paulson Stadium in the season opener for both teams. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

St. Francis (PA) (0-0)  at Ga. Southern (1-0)
Saturday, 6 p.m.
Paulson Stadium

    Georgia Southern didn’t have too much trouble stopping Savannah State in the season opener last Saturday at Paulson Stadium.
    The Eagles held Savannah State to one offensive touchdown and only 183 total yards.
    Most impressively, perhaps, was that SSU gained only 21 yards on the ground on 19 carries — a stat that doesn’t much surprise GSU co-defensive coordinator Kevin Corlesss.
    “We make a commitment to stopping the run,” Coreless said. “We want to take away one phase of the offense and make people throw the football.”
    That doesn’t bode well for this week’s GSU opponent, the St. Francis Red Flash, who picked up roughly two-thirds of their offense on the ground in 2012 — a far cry from Savannah State, which threw 44 passes in GSU’s 77-9, season-opening win,
    “We’re expecting a lot more two-back stuff than we saw last week, and a lot of shifts, a lot of motion,” Corless said. “That was an integral part of their offense last year.”
    It will be the opener for St. Francis, which went 5-6 in 2012. The Red Flash utilizes checks at the line and plenty of motion and misdirection to try and keep opposing defenses off balance.
    “The checks against the motions, the shifts, those types of things (concern me).” Coreless said. “You always worry as a coach about cutting somebody loose on a deep route because there’s some confusion on coverage. I think that would probably be the main thing we’re concerned about at this point.”
    Savannah State didn’t show much as far as the running game was concerned in the opener. The longest run came from quarterback Leon Prunty whose 11-yard scramble accounted for more than half of SSU’s running game.
The Red Flash will likely run it early and often.
    “I expect they’ll be a really tough football team,” GSU head coach Jeff Monken said. “They like to run the ball, and that’s something I admire in a football team. It’ll be a little different in terms of style than we got last week.”
    The leading returning rushed for St. Francis is Anthony Abeid, who ran for 258 yards and a pair of scores, but the team’s feature back, but Kyle Harbridge returned to the mix this season after sitting out 2012 with an injury.
    Harbridge was a third-team All American in 2011 after setting the school records for rushing yards in a season (1,474), all-purpose yards (1,950), rushing touchdowns (14) and total points (90).
    Defensively, the Eagles aren’t sure what to expect. Savannah State abandoned its base defense against the Eagles, electing a 46 defense to try and stop the GSU offense.
    “They list themselves as a 4-3, but they’re pretty multiple with what they do, so you’ve got to prepare for everything along the tree,” GSU defensive coordinator Brent Davis said about the Red Flash. “You hope if you see something that you haven’t really prepared for during the week, your rules will take care of themselves.”
    Kickoff for Saturday’s game is scheduled for 6 p.m., at Paulson Stadium.

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