GSU to face Savannah State this weekend in football opener

Will Cheney

The Georgia Southern University football team will open its 2013 season on Saturday against Savannah State University at Allen E. Paulson Stadium.

The last time SSU came to Statesboro, GSU, led by former quarterback now assistant coach Jaybo Shaw, won in a 48-3 rout in September of 2010.

In the first game of the season, offensive catalysts senior GSU quarterback Jerick McKinnon and junior running back Dominique Swope should see the field for a majority of the game, unless they get pulled in the late stages for rest purposes.

McKinnon led GSU’s offense in 2012 with 1,817 rushing yards and 27 total touchdowns. Swope was not far behind with 1,246 yards and 17 total touchdowns. With these two key players returning to head coach Jeff Monken’s triple option, the rushing attack will be just as, if not more, potent.

The defense will also take this opportunity to build some momentum and let the young starters gel with the rest of the defense. Defensive tackle Brent Russell and free safety J.J. Wilcox left some big shoes to fill in GSU’s defense.

Senior defensive end Javon Mention, who was selected for the College Football Performance Awards watch list for defensive linemen in June, will be the anchor of the defensive line this season with the loss of Russell. Mention racked up 6.5 quarterback sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss in 2012.

Sophomore free safety Matt Dobson will get his first experience as a starter in 2013, replacing Wilcox. Dobson appeared in 12 games in 2012 and tallied eight tackles on the season.

The two main SSU offensive weapons, seniors quarterback Antonio Bostick and wide receiver Simon Heyward, are returning from the 2012 season.

Bostick threw for 1,629 yards, eight touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 2012, while gaining 345 yards on the ground with five more scores. Heyward was Bostick’s favorite target with 44 grabs for 751 yards and six touchdowns.

As for the outcome, the story could have a similar ending to the matchup in 2010. GSU’s depth on both sides of the ball could prove too much for SSU, and it should be a good game for the young GSU players to get their feet wet in the 2013 season.