Jerick McKinnon and Dominique Swope
Combined 2012 rushing stats:
Yards per carry: 6.7
#5 GSU (10-3) at #1 N. Dakota St. (12-1)
Friday, 8 p.m., FCS Semifinals
Radio: 103.7 FM
You’ve heard all about “Gurshall,” the Georgia Bulldogs’ dynamic duo of running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall.
So, why don’t Jerick McKinnon and Dominique Swope — Georgia Southern’s one-two punch that has combined for 2,818 rushing yards and 35 touchdowns — have a mashed-up nickname?
“Hmmm, I’m not sure,” McKinnon said. “I’ll have to think of one.”
It probably has to do with the fact that their rushing total, while impressive, only makes up for just a little over half of GSU’s nation’s-best 5,320 yards on the ground.
“They’re just guys on the team that are working hard, just like everybody else,” said offensive coordinator Brent Davis. “We’ve got a lot of guys who are working at the same positions, who are capable of doing the job, too.”
McKinnon has rushed for a bulk of his yards as the team’s starting quarterback, but started at both fullback and slotback early in the season.
Swope’s done his damage straight up the gut, but has also missed three starts due to lingering injuries.
Still, Swope and McKinnon have found themselves in elite GSU company, becoming the fifth pair to reach 1,000 yards each in a season. Only Jermaine Austin and Jayson Foster (2005), Austin and Chaz Williams (2002) and Adrian Peterson and Greg Hill (1998 and 1999) have put together seasons in which the Eagles had two 1,000-yard rushers.
“They’ve gotten better each week, and they’ve really worked at it,” Davis said about Swope and McKinnon. “Some of the guys we’ve had in the past — Hill and Peterson come to mind — it’s the chemistry that comes from working together every single day. They do the same thing so many times, it’s hard not to get better at it.”
Swope and McKinnon look to reach the heights of Peterson and Hill. Those two reached the national title game in and 1998 and 1999, winning it all on the second trip.
For McKinnon and Swope to get there, they’ll have to figure out how to do it against the nation’s best defense in North Dakota State, which is first in all major categories — points allowed (11), rushing yards per game (63), passing yards per game (134), third-down percentage (25) and first downs allowed per game (11).
The Bison allowed a season-high 262 rushing yards in last week’s 14-7 win over Wofford, but held the Terriers’ offense out of the end zone. The lone touchdown NDSU has allowed in the playoffs came on a Wofford pick six.
It’s a lot to ask, but Swope needs one touchdown to match Gerald Harris for the 10th-best single-season total in team history (17), and McKinnon currently has the seventh-best total (19), tied with Ernest Thompson’s mark set in 1988. Two more for McKinnon would tie Jayson Foster’s sixth-best total of 21, set in 2005.
Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.