It was low-scoring, hard-hitting, maybe a little bit boring. One team didn’t attempt a single pass and the clock practically never stopped running.
In other words, it was vintage, triple-option football at its finest.
Georgia Southern held the No. 1 rushing offense in the country to 221 yards on the ground, 228 below its season average of 449, and the No. 7 Eagles handed the No. 5 Wofford Terriers their first loss of the season, winning 17-9 on Saturday at Paulson Stadium.
Fullback Dominique Swope was the workhorse for the Eagles (5-1, 4-1 Southern Conference), carrying the ball 25 times for 137 yards and both of the game’s touchdowns.
The game moved a lot slower than Eagles coach Jeff Monken would have hoped.
“I wanted to come in here and beat them 55 to nothing,” he said. “That’s what I wanted. That’s certainly a lot less agonizing to go through, but we try and do the best we can on offense and defense, on each series. It’s a team game, and our defense held in there and kept them out of the end zone, and that was huge. The offense did a great job getting the ball in the end zone before the half — that was a great momentum boost — and I thought we played a lot better in the second half.”
GSU plays at Furman Saturday.
After a scoreless third quarter, the Eagles got the separation they needed.
Wofford got another heavy dose of Swope, but McKinnon left the game after staying down on the turf after apparently injuring his leg. The trotted off the field several minutes later, looking no worse for the wear, and quarterback Ezayi Youyoute finished the drive. Youyoute handed the ball to Swope four-straight times for 22 yards and a two-yard scoring run.
Wofford got the ball all the way to the GSU 6-yard line on its next drive, but the Eagles’ defense held strong again, forcing the Terriers to settle for their third field goal.
They didn’t attempt an onside kick, electing to kick off to GSU, and McKinnon and Swope combined for three first downs on the game’s final drive, including one on 4th-and-1, to end the game.
“(The offense) wanted to go for it, the coaches wanted to go for it, I flipped over to the defense and said, ‘I’m thinking about going for it here.’ They said, ‘Coach, we’ll stop them. Go for it.’ In other words (they were saying), ‘If you don’t make it, we’ll stop them.’ And thought our guys would.”
The defense saw three players reach double digits in tackles, including running-back-turned-safety J.J. Wilcox, who wasn’t happy with his performance the previous week in a 45-13 win over Western Carolina.
“Coming out of the Western Carolina game, I let my teammates down a little bit. There were some plays I should have made, and I wasn’t there,” said Wilcox, who recorded 10 hard-hitting tackles to reach double digits against Wofford, along with John Stevenson (11) and Blake Riley (11). “They helped me out, and I made sure this week, I wasn’t going to let them down again.”
The Eagles begin a two-week road trip Saturday in Greenville, S.C., at Furman.