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Eagles to face toughest defense yet Saturday
GSU FOOTBALL 092907 346
Chris Teal makes a cut back towards the end zone for Georgia Southern in Saturday's 50-21 win over Western Carolina. Teal was named Southern Conference Freshman of the Week on Monday.
    It’s been three weeks since South Dakota State has allowed anyone in its end zone, a trend Georgia Southern will do its best to snap when the Jackrabbits visit Paulson Stadium for a 2 p.m. game Saturday.
    Despite the hype surrounding the Jackrabbits’ defense, the group knows it’s likely to have its hands full trying to contain Georgia Southern’s high-powered offense, which leads the nation with more than 390 rushing yards a game.
    SDSU (2-3) is allowing only 17.2 points a contest while the Eagles (3-1) are scoring more than 43 a week. Stephen F. Austin never got into the red zone during its 45-0 loss to the Jackrabbits last Saturday, and South Dakota State beat Texas State 38-3 the week before.
    “It’s a big challenge for us,” senior quarterback Jayson Foster said following practice Monday. “We know they’ve got two great defensive ends, and they’re big so we’re looking forward to the challenge. To beat them we are going to have to execute to the best of our ability and use our speed to try to get on the edge.”
    Though their last two outings were definite confidence boosters, the Jackrabbits said they’ve put those victories behind them.
    “We’re playing a tougher team, and we’ve got to be better this week than we were last week,” SDSU coach John Stieglemeier said.
    The Eagles are encouraged by their most recent offensive performance, a 50-21 win over Western Carolina during which six different players found the end zone. The outing proved there’s more to GSU’s attack than Foster, who’s rushed for 13 of the team’s 23 scores (57 percent) this year.
    “We showed we could get in the end zone through our special teams, through the ground, through the air, so it just adds more dimensions people have to draw up and cover,” Foster said.
    Georgia Southern has scored 118 points in their only two meetings with South Dakota State, both of which the Eagles won. The Jackrabbits don’t play many players on defense and stick primarily with four linemen, so Georgia Southern is hoping fatigue and south Georgia heat will play to its favor.
    “They gave us a tough game two years ago when we went up there, and they’re supposedly the best defense we’ve played yet,” senior left guard Pierce Giboney said. “They’ve got two great defense ends, and their biggest asset is they play snap to whistle. That’s always a tough fight when somebody doesn’t give up and plays as hard as they can.”
    The Eagles were in good spirits at Beautiful Eagle Creek Monday following their most complete game of the season.
    “For a Monday practice it went really well,” Foster said. “Everybody knew their assignments, we’re putting in a few new plays and everyone was excited to get out here.”    
Teal earns SoCon award
    Freshman running back Chris Teal picked up Georgia Southern’s third straight Southern Conference freshman of the week honor Monday after rushing for 64 yards and his first collegiate touchdown in the Western Carolina win.
    The Cairo native also reeled in two passes for 38 yards and made a key block to pave the way for Foster to score GSU’s first touchdown. Teal, who is getting more carries while senior Lamar Lewis recovers from a sprained ankle, accounted for 102 all-purpose yards against the Catamounts.
    “He has improved a great deal since the Coastal Carolina game,” GSU coach Chris Hatcher said. “He’s a guy that can play many different positions for us, but he’s thrust into the running back position. By far he had the best game of his career to date versus Western Carolina.”
    Linebacker E.J. Webb was named the league’s top freshman last week while running back Zeke Rozier earned the honor the week before. Teal, Webb and Rozier, who is out for the season with a knee injury, are all true freshmen.
    “We are playing a lot of folks, so there are a lot of freshmen that get an opportunity to win that award,” Hatcher said. “You can look at that as being a positive or a negative, but it bodes well for the future.”

Giboney enjoys larger role
    Giboney is still riding high from his first career start last week, and with junior Dio Herrera injured, Giboney’s in line to start again Saturday. The senior missed all of the last two seasons with knee problems but never gave up on playing alongside friends from his signing class.
    “It wasn’t looking like it was going to happen for a couple years,” he said. “Through a twist of fate, we just all ended up on the line together. It’s like something magical happens when you get in there too, even if we don’t make all our blocks we still (find a way) to get in the end zone. It’s been a lot of fun.”

Penalty progress
    Georgia Southern made much-needed improvement in the penalty department last Saturday when the Eagles were called for a season-low three penalties for one yard. GSU, which has been flagged 33 times this year for an average of nearly 70 yards a game, is the second-most penalized team in the SoCon.
    “They just weren’t calling them the other day, which is good,” Hatcher said. “That’s the way I like it. But we’re getting better at that. We only made a couple silly penalties. We get a little overly aggressive at times, but we are getting better in that area and playing smarter football. That’s very important for us.”

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