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Playoff hopes on line against Colorado St.
Eagles also going for first-ever win over I-A opponent
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    It all comes down to this.
    Georgia Southern’s final shot at convincing the FCS playoff selection committee it’s worthy of an at-large bid comes today at 2 p.m. when the Eagles take the field at Colorado State for their last game of the regular season.
    A win over the struggling Rams - a FBS program - would make the 16th-ranked Eagles 8-3 and pad their resume, which already includes road wins at No. 6 Appalachian State and 13th-ranked Wofford. Since 1984, no 8-3 Georgia Southern team has been left out of the postseason.
    “We are going in with the idea that if we win, we’ll be in the playoffs,” Eagle coach Chris Hatcher said. “Whether that happens or not we’ll have to wait and see. We’ve got to win (today), and we’re going to go up there and give it our best shot. We are going to let it all hang out.”
    The Eagles are looking to continue a remarkable turnaround from a 3-8 campaign in 2006 and rebound quickly from a heartbreaking loss to rival Furman last week. Georgia Southern and CSU have never met before, and GSU is hoping for its first win over a FBS school.
    “I’m looking forward to it,” said Eagle safety Chris Covington, the Eagles’ leading tackler. “They’ve got a great team up there, and it’s going to be a great challenge. It’s our one little hope of life into the playoffs, so we’re excited and motivated to go up there and try to pull out a win.”
    The Rams have won a total of five games since 2005 and have lost three straight since an October win at UNLV, their only victory this season. Regardless of its record, CSU is expected to be a tough challenge for a thin Georgia Southern team with nearly 30 fewer scholarships.
    The Eagles have been plagued with injuries all season, and today they’ll have to overcome the loss of three defensive starters - linebacker E.J Webb, tackle Damon Suggs and end Dakota Walker. Webb and Suggs are the latest injury victims, while Walker and reserve running back Mike Hamilton were benched earlier this week for a violating team rules. Georgia Southern will also have to overcome a size disadvantage.
    “Colorado State is a great team,” junior receiver Raja Andrews said. “Their record doesn’t speak for the caliber of athletes they have. They fight hard. Every game they lost could have gone either way, so I expect those guys to come out there and play hard. They’ve got to get a win as just much as we’ve got to get one, so it’s going to be a tough fight. We plan to just go out there and do whatever we can to fight and win.”
    To pull off the upset, the Eagles need another big afternoon from senior quarterback Jayson Foster, a Walter Payton Award finalist. Foster became the most prolific running quarterback in Division I history last week when he set the single-season record for rushing yards. He’s gained 1,649 yards and scored 21 touchdowns on the ground this fall and will be up against a CSU defense that enters the game allowing nearly 204 rushing yards a week. Led by Foster and a senior-laden offensive line, the Eagles have the best rushing attack in the FCS with 324 yards a game.
    “Georgia Southern is certainly a worthy opponent with good players and a great tradition,” Rams coach Sonny Lubick said. “It’s not like this is going to be any gimme. Georgia Southern will present us with every possible challenge we can muster up to.”
    The Rams’ offense hasn’t been nearly as prolific as Georgia Southern’s, and CSU is scoring 22.6 points a game to GSU’s 36.8 Their top two running threats are Gartrell Johnson (718 yards, three TDs) and Kyle Bell (605 yds, three TDs) while quarterback Caleb Hanie has thrown for 1,966 yards and 13 touchdowns this season. His favorite target is Damon Morton, who has a team-high 620 receiving yards and five touchdown catches.
“They are very impressive,” Hatcher said. “By far I think they are the best team we’ve played this season. They’ve had a lot of bad luck.”
    Said senior offensive lineman Russell Orr, “Offensively, they’re a little slow. The offensive line has given up 30 sacks. Defensively, they’re really good, real quick, but they’re very beatable.
    “We’ve just got to go into this game hoping they are going to overlook us. We’ve got our backs against the wall yet again, so we’ve just got to come in playing with no regard.”