December 04, 2012
Have yourself a day, Jerick McKinnon!
The Georgia Southern junior quarterback had one of the best performances in recent memory as he led his Eagles to a 24-16 win over Central Arkansas in Saturday’s second-round playoff matchup. He piled up 316 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 34 carries; he also tacked on 79 passing yards and one touchdown through the air for good measure.
Fullback Dominique Swope had 17 carries for 64 yards, as the Bears seemed to be focused on stopping Southern from running up the middle. McKinnon took full advantage as he torched the defense with his career day, doing most of his damage on the edges.
Georgia Southern’s defense bent but didn’t break, as UCA drove into the red zone twice in the first half but were limited to just three field goals before the half. The Eagles did not score in the second half, but the defense did enough to preserve the win. McKinnon’s performance earns him this week’s game ball.
His 316 yards rank as the second most in Georgia Southern history, behind only Adrian Peterson’s 333-yard, five-touchdown outburst in the revenge game against UMass in the 1999 quarterfinals.
Not to bring the mood down, but I’d like to look at a couple of negative aspects of this past Saturday at Paulson.
First, the crowd. Where was everybody? Students, I’m mostly talking to you because it was very obvious that side of the stadium was half-empty. It’s $5, for crying out loud. I’ve been a student; I know you are broke. But five bucks is not hard to come up with — you manage to find it to pay your cover at the Plaza on Thursday night. It shouldn’t be too hard to find on Saturday afternoon. Needless to say, I’m disappointed.
Secondly, while the Eagle defense only allowed 16 points and the Bears only found the end zone once, I’m not ready to call this a great defensive performance. Central Arkansas had two sure touchdown passes dropped and a few more instances where the defense was beaten downfield and the quarterback just missed his man. If the Bears’ receivers had caught everything they should have, and if the quarterback was a little more accurate, Georgia Southern loses this ballgame.
But that’s enough with all the negativity. In the playoffs, it’s all about surviving to play one more time, and the Eagles did just that. Georgia Southern now advances to the quarterfinals and a rematch of last season’s second-round game against Old Dominion.
Old Dominion is seeded No. 4 in this year’s bracket after completing a 10-1 regular season. The Monarchs are members of the Colonial Athletic Association but are transitioning to FBS and Conference USA following this season. Their lone loss came on Oct. 13 at home to Villanova by a score of 38-14.
The Monarchs make their living with offense, as they average 46 points per game this season. But they don’t necessarily stop anybody defensively. The ODU defense is giving up just under 29 points per game.
Last week, ODU sophomore quarterback Taylor Heinicke may have been the only player in the country to outdo Jerick McKinnon. Heinicke passed for 497 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions and rushed for 45 yards and two more touchdowns as the Monarchs ended Coastal Carolina’s season 63-35. His performance set the FCS record for most total offense with 542 yards.
Georgia Southern eliminated Old Dominion from last year’s playoffs with a 55-48 win at Paulson Stadium. The Eagles had no answer for the Monarchs’ passing game, but ODU had no answer for the triple option. This Saturday is looking like another shootout, and Old Dominion has revenge on its mind.
Kickoff is at noon in Norfolk, Va., and the game will be televised on ESPN — but I recommend just making the trip up I-95. Tattler prediction:
The way the Eagles have defended the pass lately has me concerned, but Georgia Southern’s offense is faster and more explosive this year. This one will be back and forth, but the Eagles get it done in a track meet. Eagles 49, Monarchs 45.