Story and photo courtesy of Georgia Southern Athletics
CULLOWHEE, N.C. - The Georgia Southern Eagles ran for 614 yards behind three 100-yard rushers in their first road win of the season over Western Carolina 45-13. The rushing total was the fourth-largest and just the fourth such performance in school history, while the win was the 18th-straight victory by the Eagles over the Catamounts, the longest current winning streak in the Southern Conference.
Georgia Southern's (4-1, 3-1) Darreion Robinson (Bishop, Ga.), Dominique Swope (Buford, Ga.) and William Banks (Augusta, Ga.) all ran for over 100 yards, the ninth time in school history and the second time in as many years against Western Carolina (1-5, 0-4). Robinson, who rushed for 100 or more yards for just the second time in his career, led the way with a career high 124 yards and a touchdown. Swope added 117 yards and a touchdown, his sixth-straight game with a rushing score, while fellow B-Back Banks ran for 101 yards and a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
“I think I’ve said it enough times, but we have to run the ball if we’re going to be successful. We try to establish the run in every game, and fortunately we were able to gain some yards and keep the chains moving on those first two drives. It was a good job by the offense to start the game,” Head Coach Jeff Monken said about his team's rushing performance.
After going 0 for 10 on third downs in last week's win over Samford, GSU converted its first six third downs and finished 11 for 15. The Eagles took advantage of their third down success to set new season highs for longest drives on two separate drives. GSU’s second touchdown drive of the day was the longest by time (7:07) this year, while the Eagles' field goal drive just before halftime was the longest in terms of plays (16) and yards (86).
“It was great to see the guys play a whole game without putting the ball on the ground. Western didn’t turn the ball over today, and that’s something we’ve got to do a better job of – intercept some passes, knock the ball loose and we didn’t get any today. We’ve got to do a better job on winning the turnover battle and you don’t do that by going 0-for-0 in turnovers,” Monken said after a turnover-free day by the offense.
The Georgia Southern defense held Western Carolina to just 207 yards of offense and 95-yards passing. The quarterback duo of Eddie Sullivan and Troy Mitchell combined to go 8 for 17 in passing attempts with most of that coming on a 42-yard pass to Karnorris Benson. Mitchell also led the team in rushing with 13 carries for 41 yards and a score. Michael Vaughn added another 35 yards on 11 carries, while Shaun Warren scored a touchdown in six carries.
Georgia Southern struck for their second-quickest score of the season as Robinson capped off the opening drive with a 48-yard touchdown run. The rush was the longest of the season for the senior and gave GSU a touchdown in the opening drive for the fourth time in five games this season.
Swope added a second touchdown eight minutes later with a five-yard touchdown run. The sophomore B-Back carried the ball six times for 35 yards during the 13 play drive. The drive accounted for seven minutes of the Eagles' 9:40 first quarter time of possession and put the Eagles up 14-0 early in the contest.
Western Carolina struck back before the end of the quarter on an 11-yard run by Troy Mitchell to move within a touchdown, 14-6. Mitchell rolled out on the extra point attempt trying to find an open receiver for a two-point conversion but his pass was picked off by John Stevenson in the back of the end zone.
Georgia Southern responded on their next drive and went ahead 21-6 early in the second quarter on Jerick Mckinnon's (Marietta, Ga.) first touchdown pass of the season to Kentrellis Showers (Dublin, Ga.). The 20-yard touchdown grab was Showers' second of the season and the second for the Eagles this year.
The Eagles added a 25-yard field goal by freshman Alex Hanks (Marietta, Ga.) with 32 seconds remaining to take a 24-6 halftime lead. The 16-play 86-yard drive was the largest scoring drive in both yards and plays for GSU this season.
After Hanks' 19-yard field goal attempt was blocked on Georgia Southern's first drive of the second half, a 30-yard punt return by Robinson set up a three-play 38 yard drive that resulted in a 30-yard touchdown pass from McKinnon to Tray Butler (Stockbridge, Ga.), his first catch and score of the year.
After Western Carolina's Shaun Warren scored from 9-yards out with 8:59 to go in the fourth quarter, the Eagles scored a pair of touchdowns to close out the game. Banks capped off a 9-play 93-yard drive with a 13-yard touchdown run, and Dean broke through for a 43-yard touchdown score with 1:31 remaining. Both touchdowns were career firsts for the reserve B-Backs, while Dean just missed out on 100 yards and finished with 95 yards.