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Eagles and Bulldogs have mutual respect
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    Citadel coach Kevin Higgins has spent plenty of time watching Georgia Southern on film.
    Earlier this year, he saw the Eagles play their third game of the season, a one-point loss to Chattanooga. These days, Higgins has been studying GSU’s more recent performances, like last Saturday’s seven-point, double-overtime loss to top-ranked Appalachian State.
    He can’t help but notice the improvement.
    “It seems to me they are getting better and better as the season progresses,” Higgins said. “They are starting to hit on all cylinders.”
    How the progression continues – and whether or not the Eagles can bounce back from last week’s emotional loss to their hated rival – will be determined this Saturday when Georgia Southern (3-4, 2-2 Southern Conference) visits The Citadel (2-5, 2-2) for a 2 p.m. game. The Eagles are in a three-way tie with the Bulldogs and Wofford (3-4, 2-2) for third place in the SoCon. Appalachian State and Furman, which meet this weekend in Boone, N.C., share the lead with a perfect 4-0 mark in league games.
    The improvement Higgins sees is what’s expected from a Georgia Southern team loaded with talent but still learning the ins and outs of an entirely new system. Although they are still feeling their way around, it’s GSU’s skill players that concern Higgins more than anything else.
    “They are a scary, scary football team because of all the talent that they have,” said the second-year coach.
    What will the Bulldogs do to try to contain that talent?
    “Number one, you have to be sound fundamentally and make sure that you are in the right position every time,” Higgins said.
    “Because if you are even with them, they are going to win a lot of those battles because of the skill level that they have. You just have to execute, be at the right place at the right time, don’t give them any advantages by making mental mistakes and try to keep the physical mistakes to a limit.”
    Aside from a pair of blowout losses to Division I-A foes Texas A&M and Pittsburgh, the Bulldogs have been in every game they’ve played. They’ve also gotten a reputation for fighting their way back into games after falling behind early.
    “They are always chipping away at you,” first-year Georgia Southern coach Brian VanGorder said. “I think those kinds of situations in Kevin’s second year have given this team a sense of optimism. They are trusting, believing and playing good, sound football all over.”
    The Citadel’s offense is what stands out to VanGorder when he watches the Bulldogs on tape. In SoCon games only, The Citadel ranks second in total offense with 404 yards a game. App State is first averaging 482.2 yards per game, while GSU is third with 375.5. Quarterback Duran Lawson is second in the SoCon, behind Elon’s Wes Pope, averaging 239.2 passing yards in league games. Offensively, the Bulldogs are fairly balanced, throwing for 198.4 yards per game and running for 141.3.
    “They are an outstanding offensive team,” VanGorder said. “They are difficult to stop. You’ve got to really go in there to control them and hopefully you can come up with some big plays. They test you everywhere with a good solid run game and a quarterback that can run the football. Their passing concepts are really outstanding, high-stress concepts.”

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