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All signs point to shootout
GSU, Elon pit two high-sctone offenses
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    Though all statistics point in that direction, Georgia Southern safety Chris Covington can’t foresee this weekend’s matchup at Elon turning into a shootout.
    “In my mind it’s not going to be,” said the junior. “We are hoping it’s not because we want to stop them every time we get a chance to. Hopefully we can put the offense in a better situation than we did last week.”
    Shootout or not, the Eagles (4-1, 1-1) know they’ll have their hands full Saturday trying to contain the best passing attack in the Southern Conference (342.2 yards per game). Elon’s defense will have a challenge just as big — slowing GSU’s potent running game, which leads the nation (357.4) despite being slowed by a host of injuries recently.
    “I hope we score a lot of points and they don’t score very many,” GSU coach Chris Hatcher said. “Usually when you have two high-powered offenses coming together the defense decides who’s going to win the game. So far we’ve had a good week of practice. The boys are in high spirits.”
    Both defenses are giving up a slew of points and yards as the Phoenix (3-2, 1-1) are surrendering 28.6 points and 391.2 yards a week to GSU’s 31.8 and 371.6. Defensively, the Eagles are focused on limiting the number of big plays and getting their front four to pressure quarterback Scott Riddle as much as possible. Coaches have challenged GSU’s defense — which has recorded eight takeaways in the last two games — to play a little bit harder and better this week.
    They’ll be facing a scheme Georgia Southern’s staff is very familiar with as Elon runs an offense similar to what Hatcher used at Valdosta State. The Phoenix like to lull defenders to sleep by throwing pass after pass, said GSU defensive coordinator Ashley Anders, before suddenly changing tempo with a running play.
    They also handle the blitz fairly well because Riddle doesn’t hold on to the ball very long. As always, No. 21 Georgia Southern will try to make its opponent one dimensional.
    “We can’t allow them to throw the football over and over and over and get complacent on the run and let them get a big play off rushing yards,” Anders said.
    Offensively, Elon has the league’s best one-two punch at receiver with sophomore Terrell Hudgins and senior Michael Mayers. Who’s going to be assigned to cover those two?
    “We are going to let it unfold as it may,” Anders said. “We’ve got all the confidence in the world with (cornerbacks) Brandon Jackson, Carson Hill and Ronnie Wiggins. So whoever we put out there, we’ve got the confidence in those guys that they can get the job done.”
    Along with Jackson, Hill and Wiggins, the Eagles need big games out of Covington and fellow safeties Chris Rogers and Dedrick Bynam. Covington feels the secondary is ready.
    “I think we are going to get tested a lot in the defensive backfield, and the d-line is going to get tested rushing,” he said. “I’m looking forward to the challenge, and I think everybody out here is.”
    But if the game turns into a shooting match between offenses, the Eagles have all the confidence they’ll need.
    “If it comes down to it and we have to outscore them, so be it,” senior quarterback Jayson Foster said. “As an offensive player, that’s what you want in a game, so if it comes that way we’ll take it.”

    Alex Pellegrino can be reached at (912) 489-9413.