STATESBORO — Quarterback Jerick McKinnon still owns the ground at Georgia Southern, but Kevin Ellison took over the air.
Ellison, a redshirt freshman quarterback, passed for 138 yards and rushed for 135 as the Eagles defeated The Citadel 28-21 Saturday on Military Appreciation Day at Paulson Stadium.
The win put the Eagles at No. 23 in Tuesday’s Sports Network NCAA Football Championship Subdivision poll.
Of 60 running plays, McKinnon and Ellison combined for 57 of them, and McKinnon added 198 yards and two touchdowns.
With fullbacks Dominique Swope and William Banks out with injury, McKinnon, the team’s starting quarterback through five games, took on a running-back role, and a bulk of the Eagles’ plays were run from the shotgun with four wideouts. Running backs Johnathan Bryant, Trey Butler and Devin Scott were used sparingly.
“The fact of the matter is, we’ve got 85 guys on scholarship, and 57 of them dressed out today,” GSU coach Jeff Monken said.
McKinnon had 32 carries, after 33 a week earlier in a 44-34 loss at Samford.
For him, it’s a good time for a bye week.
“Yeah, the perfect time,” McKinnon said about GSU’s coming weekend off before facing Appalachian State on Oct. 26. “But it’s just another work week for us. We’ve got to get ready for App State. They’re a good team, and we need to get everybody healthy and prepared for that game.”
Ellison looked his best on GSU’s final drive, which went 86 yards in 5 minutes, 59 seconds and resulted in the eventual game-winning touchdown — a 4-yard carry by Ellison on third-and-goal.
“We just talked to each other,” Ellison said about the final drive. “We knew we had to be calm and collected as a team, make sure to go out and execute, put points on the board. You never know what can happen, but you’ve always got to come together.”
The Eagles (4-2, 2-2 Southern Conference) went for two, with Ellison handing the ball to McKinnon, who threw a pass to a wide-open Devin Scott for the final margin.
Ellison extended the drive on third-and-7 with an 18-yard pass to Bryant, and later on third-and-1, McKinnon shot up the middle on a 30-yard run to the GSU 9.
Courier staff contributed to this report from information on gseagles.com.