In Samford’s 44-34 win on Saturday over Georgia Southern, five of its 71 plays — passes of 74, 83, 69 and 58 yards, and a 50-yard run — accounted for 334 yards.
While blown coverages by the Eagles didn’t help, GSU missed 19 tackles on defense and two on special teams — way too many for coach Jeff Monken’s liking.
“That’s 21 on the game,” he said. “That’s a lot of missed tackles.
“They had a slant route that we turned scot-free. We missed two tackles on that play — not the guy that was supposed to be covering him — two other guys missed tackles. We missed tackles on the 50-yard run there in the fourth quarter that set up their last touchdown. The 83-yard run, they ran a little option route and we had our eyes in the backfield. Our eyes should have been on our man — we were in man-free coverage — and he juked us out of our shorts. He caught the ball, cut across the middle and the free safety should have had an angle. It’s going to be a first down, but we took a bad angle and he ran all the way down to the 9 until somebody caught him.”
Cornerback Lavelle Westbrooks, who tied for the team lead with five tackles, chalks up the miscues to communication on the field, not schematics. The Eagles (3-2, 1-2 in the Southern Conference), Monken said, got beaten in both zone and man-to-man coverage.
“There were times where there was a collapse in the defensive communication, and we have to work on that this week,” Westbrooks said. “All of us have to be on the same page from the D-line all the way to the secondary.”
Georgia Southern fullback William Banks did not play a snap in the fourth quarter against Samford (4-2, 2-0) after leaving the game with an undisclosed injury.
Monken said he “won’t know until later in the week” if Banks will be available when the Eagles face The Citadel on Saturday at Paulson Stadium.
Quarterback Jerick McKinnon, who played running back, wide receiver and kick returner against Samford, is the best likely replacement if Banks can’t go. Nardo Govan, Irving Huggins and Cam Lewis have all played their first college snaps this season.
“If you add up the three guys that are behind (Banks),” Monken said, “that’s probably less than 20 snaps in their career, combined with the three of them.”
Monken expects McKinnon to continue to contribute at many positions, while he and quarterback Kevin Ellison likely will spend more time on the field together.
“There’ll be opportunities to get them both in the game and put them both under center and in the gun,” Monken said.
Ellison, who was 7-for-7 passing with 140 yards and two touchdowns against Samford, credited the offensive line with his successes throwing the ball. “The passing game’s always going to be there and the throws have to be made,” Ellison said. “But it all starts with the offensive line. It all starts up front, and the passes will be there.”
Going for two
When the Eagles scored a third-quarter touchdown against the Bulldogs to pull ahead, 27-25, Monken elected to try a two-point conversion, a passing attempt by receiver B.J. Johnson that fell incomplete, rather than kicking the extra point for a three-point advantage.
Monken said the idea was to force the Bulldogs to find the end zone.
“We tried to get a lead so that if they got the ball down there in scoring position, they were going to have to go for a touchdown rather than a field goal,” Monken said. “We practiced that play, and if you hit two points and you’re up by four, that’s great. Now they’ve got to go for six. Sometimes you’ve got to put it on the line a little bit. You ask your kids to put it on the line. … That’s fun for the kids. The kids want to know you’re going to lay it on the line.”
A similar play was successful in the fourth quarter, when Johnson threw a 49-yard pass to slotback Devin Scott to set up a touchdown.
Though The Citadel is an option team and runs a similar offense to the Eagles, Westbrooks doesn’t want to see GSU get beat by the passing game for the second week in a row on Saturday.
“We can’t just see them as a running team,” he said, “just an all-around balanced team.”
Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m.