GSU bounces back with a tough home win

Randall Hampton

The final chapter of the heated rivalry between The Citadel and the Georgia Southern University football team came to a close when GSU held on for a 28-21 victory.

Last year, the Bulldogs handed the Eagles their first loss of the season in a 23-21 slugfest, but things were different this year with the added dimension of GSU redshirt freshman quarterback Kevin Ellison.

The Eagles managed to keep their composure after falling behind in the fourth quarter. Ellison fumbled a pitch and the Bulldogs’ junior safety Akeem Garnett scooped and scored from 36 yards out to give the Bulldogs a 21-20 lead.  The Eagles were in danger of falling to 3-3 with a 1-3 conference record.

“We had to be calm and collected and make sure we really came together as a team,” Ellison said.  “[We had to] make sure we were all on the same page so we could go out there and execute to be able to put points on the board.”

Ellison racked up 273 of the Eagles 498 total yards and completed 70 percent of his passes for 138 yards.  It was Ellison that helped keep the game-winning 86-yard drive alive by juking his way past defenders for 14 yards on third and seven in GSU territory.

Ellison put GSU ahead for good with a four-yard touchdown run with 1:59 left in the game.

The offense scored in crunch time, but it was the defense that played an inspired game compared to last week’s effort against Samford University.  The Citadel came into the game with the second-best rushing attack in the Southern Conference, but GSU held the Bulldogs 100 yards below their season average of 267.

“Coming into the game, we really wanted to lessen the amount of yards put up on us,” freshman defensive lineman Rafael Hardee said.

The Eagles gave up one big play over 50 yards against The Citadel compared to four last week.  The Citadel senior quarterback Ben Dupree capitalized on a blown assignment and sprinted 73 yards for a score on the Bulldogs second drive of the game.

The defense allowed 166 yards on the ground, but if not for that one defensive breakdown GSU would have held the potent Bulldogs to just 93 rushing yards.  The Citadel converted just one third down the whole game compared to seven for GSU.

The Citadel had no answer for the Eagles offense, particularly senior quarterback Jerick McKinnon.  McKinnon was forced into action at fullback with all the injuries GSU is dealing with.  He credited a solid week of preparation for his 198 rushing yards and two touchdowns.

“The offensive line did a great job of just making things easy for me,” McKinnon said.  “(offensive coordinator Brent Davis) Coach Davis, (assistant head coach/quarterbacks coach Mitch Ware) coach Ware and (head coach Jeff Monken) Monken all did a great job of helping me get ready to play b-back this week.”

GSU won the game with weapons missing all over the field, but Monken still expects his team to come out and compete hard every week.  GSU overcame the injuries this week and the fan base will expect the same against Appalachian State University in two weeks.

“I’m not going to sit and make excuses and say well, we don’t have three of our starting offensive lineman, which we didn’t today.  We don’t have our best pass rusher Javon Mention, which we didn’t today,” Monken said.  “We’re down to our fifth string b-back, but I’m going to do whatever we need to help our team win.”

The Eagles will have their second and final bye week this week before facing off against current SoCon and future Sun Belt Conference rival Appalachian State University next Saturday in Boone, N.C. at 3:30 p.m.