A month ago Dominique Swope was barely a blip on the radar screen. Now he’s the toast of the Eagle Nation and beyond.
The Buford freshman was The Sports Network/Fathead.com national Football Championship Subdivision player of the week after he ran for 255 yards and two touchdowns in the Eagles’ 55-48 win over Old Dominion on Saturday.
That win propelled the Eagles (10-2) into the quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs where they will meet Maine (9-3) at 2 p.m. Saturday at Paulson Stadium.
Maine advanced on the strength of a 34-12 win at Appalachian State. It was an eye opener, especially with the Black Bears holding the Mountaineers to only 3 yards rushing on 25 attempts.
Swope had played in seven games, and carried the ball only 46 times for 273 yards when he moved into the starting lineup at Wofford ahead of Robert Brown.
What has taken place since has Eagles followers making comparisons between Swope and Georgia Southern icon Adrian Peterson.
That may be a bit premature, but Swope’s 573 yards in his last three games have produced some Peterson-like moments, including an 80-yard scoring run against Alabama, and a 76-yard touchdown run against the Monarchs on the first play of the third quarter.
Swope’s performance against ODU was a new school mark for most yards rushing in a game by a freshman. Peterson had 232 yard rushing against Connecticut in 1998.
The late-season burst has also put the Eagles into a position to have two 1,000-yard rushers for the first time since 2002 when Chaz Williams (1,422) and Jermaine Austin (1,416) pulled it off. Brown has 926, and Swope has 846.
While he has never met the Peterson of GSU fame, Swope states in the media guide his favorite player is Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings.
The accolades falling his way do not faze Swope, who played at Buford last year after transferring from Sequoya High School, where he had been a starter since the middle of his freshman year.
“I’m not into fame,” Swope said. “I just want to make sure we keep it going. Right now I’m just happy the opportunity came, and that I’m playing.”
Swope ran for 705 yards for the Wolves. He played behind fellow Eagles signee Seon Jones, who is being redshirted.
Preseason plans called for Swope being the emergency backup at fullback behind Brown and Zeke Rozier.
However, his attitude, work ethic, and obvious ability made an early impression on GSU head coach Jeff Monken and offensive coordinator Brent Davis, who also recruited Swope and Jones.
“We kind of knew about him from Sequoya. He ran for 1,800 yards as a sophomore,” said Davis, who at the time was the offensive coordinator at VMI and recruited the Atlanta area for the Keydets.
“We had Seon committed,” Davis said, “and (Buford) Coach (Jess) Simpson said, ‘You might want to take a look at this kid. He would be a perfect fit as a B-back.’ They kind of traded him and Seon in and out late in the season.
“We really didn’t start recruiting him until January. We were fortunate. Dominique certainly played a great game against Old Dominion, but he’s got to start taking care of the ball better than he did, and he will.”
Swope had two fumbles, one going into the end zone, where it was recovered by Nico Hickey.
Swope’s emergence has enabled the Eagles to move Brown to slotback and he proved effective against ODU, gaining 83 yards on only four carries, all in the first quarter.
“When we made the change we were just trying to take advantage of what our players are best at and their individual strengths,” Davis said. “We are a more dangerous offense when both Dominique and Robert are both on the field.
“Robert’s not ready to do what slots do,” Davis said. “The reason he only carried the ball four times is we used him as a decoy. He doesn’t have the reps at slotback yet.”
One thing which has led to Swope’s development, Davis said, is he has gained 20 pounds since arriving last summer, and is now a stronger, more physical player.
“That tells you how raw he was, and the potential he has,” Davis said. “He came in at 196 and he’s now 220 pounds. He picks things up quickly and is very attentive.”
As for the national player of the week honor, that wasn’t good enough to be the best on his own team.
“Kentrellis Showers was our offensive player of the week,” Davis said of the freshman from West Laurens. “On two third-and-longs he made plays.”
Showers caught two passes for 56 yards and a touchdown. On third-and-8 in the first quarter, he caught a 32-yard pass that put the ball on the 2-yard line to set up Swope’s first touchdown.
In the second quarter on third-and-12, he hauled in a 24-yard scoring pass. Later in the quarter, in another third-down situation, he drew a pass interference call to get a first down.