In their first Sun Belt victory of the season last week over James Madison, the Georgia Southern Eagles proved if you game-plan to shut down the run, they can win with the pass.
On Saturday against Old Dominion, the Eagles showed that teams who load up to stop the pass, still have to deal with a potent running game.
The Eagles rushed for three scores and Jalen White led the way with 138 of the Eagles’ 223 yards rushing as they beat ODU 28-23 in Norfolk, Va., and improve to 5-3 overall and 2-2 in Sun Belt Conference play.
“It took over 50 carries and tough running by Jalen, Gerald and the offensive line,” said coach Clay Helton. “The defense played tough when they needed to, so it was a great team win and a much-needed conference road win. Some of the best phrases in football are a win and a bye week and we are ready for that.
“They played so much drop-8 coverage,” Helton said. “Coach Bryan Ellis deserves a pat on the back for the patience he had to trust the offensive line and the running backs. I though the offensive line did a great job. That was the number one sack team in the country and we didn’t allow a single sack, and had over 200 yards rushing, which is a really good night.”
The Eagles were efficient with the passing game as quarterback Kyle Vantrease completed 22 of his 27 passes for 192 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. The Eagles were also able to go without a turnover and only committed three penalties for 25 yards.
“I thought it was a truly veteran job by Kyle today,” Helton said. “He was 22 for 27 and did a great job of protecting the football. He did what good quarterbacks do and that is to lead their team to victory.”
The Monarchs were able to out gain the Eagles with 446 yards of offense to 415, but the Eagles defense came through when they had to, holding Old Dominion to just 3-12 on third down conversions.
“Our defense did a great job on third down, and also shut them down pretty good in the red-zone,” Helton said. “We forced them into field goal attempts on five different occasions when they got down close. It was a great team win.”
Helton said the Eagles’ win was another step in the right direction, after handing then No. 25 ranked James Madison their first conference loss of the season, the Eagles turned around and gave ODU their first Sun Belt loss of the year.
“We said it last week and it goes to this week, we are now in playoff mode,” Helton said. “We know how important each and every game is as all the teams who were on top have suffered a loss. This was our opportunity to knock another team from the unbeatens.
“To do this on the road is something this team needed to keep growing and getting better. They have learned how to defend their home court against a good team and now they have proven they can get a big conference road win.”
The Eagles did receive some bad news after Saturday’s victory, as Eagle senior receiver Amare Jones suffered an internal injury in the game at Old Dominion that required surgery on Sunday and will sideline him for the remainder of the season.
Helton believes the bye week comes at a perfect time for the Eagles.
“They have been 13 weeks in a row of all ball,” said Helton. “It’s been five weeks of training camp and now eight straight weeks of games. Now they get a bye week and we get to go into November and you know what they say, they remember what you do in November.”
Next up, the Eagles host South Alabama Nov. 5 at 4 p.m.