Missed opportunities lead to GSU defeat

Will Cheney

The Georgia Southern University football team’s 16-14 loss to Furman University began with fireworks from both sides but ended with Eagle miscues.

Furman won the coin toss and elected to receive the ball to start the game, and receive they did. On the first play from scrimmage, Furman sophomore quarterback Reese Hannon flipped the ball to redshirt sophomore fullback Tanner Skogen.

To the Eagles’ dismay, Skogen lobbed a pass to a wide-open receiver, senior Andrej Suttles. Suttles marched in for a 75-yard touchdown catch. The extra point attempt was blocked by GSU sophomore defensive lineman Jonathan Battle to give Furman an early 6-0 lead.

“We were in man coverage. You don’t come out of man coverage,” GSU Head Coach Jeff Monken said. “You don’t come out of man coverage until your guy goes down field and blocks somebody else. That’s not what we teach and he should’ve covered that guy until the whistle blows. It’s a heck of a way to start the game.”

On the ensuing GSU drive, Monken brought some trickiness of his own. On a fourth and seven on Furman’s 43 yard line, senior GSU punter Luke Cherry threw a pass to junior safety Deion Stanley that went for 26 yards and a first down. Sophomore running back Nardo Govan punched in a one-yard touchdown to cap off the drive and give GSU a 7-6 lead.

Halfway through the second quarter, the Eagles were stricken by another big play from the Paladin offense. Hannon threw a short pass over the middle to redshirt senior wide out Ryan Culbreath that went for 54 yards and a touchdown as Furman took a 13-7 lead.

With 2:04 left in the first half, GSU missed an opportunity to put points on the board as freshman kicker Younghoe Koo missed a 42-yard field goal attempt wide right. The teams went into their respective locker rooms with Furman still leading 13-7.

“The big plays were killers,” Monken said. “They had two hundred yards in the first half. One hundred twenty nine of them were on two plays. We felt like we were playing pretty good except for the two long plays.”

Redshirt freshman quarterback Kevin Ellison started the game under center for GSU, but was replaced by senior Jerick McKinnon at the start of the second half. Both were still feeling the effects of injuries suffered last week during the loss at Appalachian State University.

“Kevin’s hurt. You don’t see from a long way away the wince on his face when he gets up after every time he falls on it or gets hit on it,” Monken said. “We talked about it before the game if he [McKinnon] could go and we would use him if we felt like the game dictated that.”

The Eagles came out of the locker room in the second half and hit the ground running. GSU put together a 13-play, 75-yard drive and made it to the end zone with a one-yard rush by freshman running back Irving Huggins. The touchdown gave GSU a 14-13 lead and was Huggins’ first career touchdown.

In Furman’s ensuing drive, the Paladins did what the Eagles had failed to do. Furman marched down the field 74 yards on 17 plays and senior Paladin kicker Ray Early drilled an 18-yard field goal to take a 16-14 lead.

On GSU’s first drive of the fourth quarter, the Eagles put themselves in another position to put three points on the board with a 10-play, 49-yard drive. Sophomore kicker Alex Hanks took the place of Koo this time, but the result was the same. Hanks missed a 43-yarder and the Eagles remained two points behind.

Furman held on to the ball for the final five minutes of the game and the clock dwindled to zero. The Eagles dropped to 4-4 overall and 2-4 in Southern Conference play

The Eagles will try to end their skid next Saturday as Western Carolina University comes to Statesboro for the Homecoming game and Senior Day.