Eagles drop conference opener for second straight year

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Randall Hampton

A mistake-filled evening conjured feelings of déjà vu for the Georgia Southern University football team as it lost its Southern Conference opener to the Wofford College Terriers 30-20.

For the second year in a row, the Eagles managed to give away the conference opener with turnovers and missed assignments.  GSU lost two of its six fumbles against the Terriers, which is exactly what happened against The Citadel last year.

“I feel like we just made a lot of mistakes and a lot of missed opportunities.  When you make that many mistakes, errors and missed opportunities versus a great Wofford team like this tonight you can expect yourself to lose,” senior quarterback Jerick McKinnon said.

The errors began piling up for the Eagles from the opening kickoff when sophomore kicker Alex Hanks sent the kick out of bounds.  With a short field, Wofford lined up and punched GSU right in the mouth with 12 straight running plays on its way to a 7-0 lead to start the game.

“That’s their deal (running the ball well), that’s what they do,” head coach Jeff Monken said.

In a surprising change of events, redshirt freshman quarterback Kevin Ellison (who was named SoCon freshman of the week) got his first career start at quarterback while McKinnon started at running back.  After a shaky first drive, Ellison would complete a 15-yard pass and break a 53- yard run to the two-yard line to set up the game-tying score.

“We put in a couple packages where he would be in the game at quarterback and I would move to running back,” McKinnon said.  “We really didn’t know (Ellison would start) but we knew that he would play a lot.  He has been playing a lot the past two games and doing a good job.”

GSU would hold a 14-10 lead late in the second quarter, but a 40-yard touchdown pass from Wofford sophomore quarterback Michael Weimer with 22 seconds left before halftime shifted the momentum for the rest of the game.

“Right before half we take the lead, give up a couple big pass plays and they’re up at halftime,” Monken said.  “We had momentum going our way, we had picked that ball off and just couldn’t get a first down.”

Down 17-14 in the third quarter, GSU shot itself in the foot when senior running back William Banks fumbled deep in GSU territory.  Wofford sophomore running back Ray Smith would scamper 32 yards for a touchdown and give the Terriers a 23-14 lead.

“They were playing real physical and tried to hit our weak spots,” junior linebacker Edwin Jackson said.  “We made mistakes from the get go and I felt like they just came into the second half even stronger.”

The Eagles lost a tough game but the experienced Monken has been here before. His team reeled off six straight conference wins when faced with this situation last season.

“We did the same thing last year when we lost to The Citadel right off the bat.  We’ve got to come back. Hopefully we will learn from it and hopefully we will play better in two weeks,” Monken said.

GSU has the opportunity to fix its shortcomings, as the Eagles have a bye week before coming back home to play the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga on Sept. 28 at 6 p.m.