STATESBORO, Ga. — Georgia Southern got started slowly Saturday night. Savannah State never seemed to get started.
The ninth-ranked Eagles scored touchdowns on seven consecutive possessions from the first to third quarters – not including a late drive before halftime – and rolled to a 77-9 victory over the Tigers before 16,528 fans at Paulson Stadium.
Georgia Southern, a semifinalist in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs last season, established offensive firepower after missing two field goal tries on its first two possessions.
The 77 points and the 68-point margin of victory were the largest in Jeff Monken’s head coaching career at Georgia Southern and ruined the debut of Savannah State coach Earnest Wilson.
It was the second-most points scored in school history. The Eagles set a scoring mark with 84 points against Johnson C. Smith in 2004.
The Eagles finished with 651 total yards, 576 on the ground.
Quarterback Jerick McKinnon, who ran for 107 yards, opened the scoring by reversing fields on a 66-yard touchdown run.
That’s when things started going in reverse for the Savannah State’s defense.
McKinnon found Devin Scott for an 8-yard touchdown pass on the next possession and Sports Network preseason All-America running back Dominique Swope ran for touchdowns of 1 and 5 yards to make 28-0 by halftime.
Swope finished with 100 yards on 17 carries.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Kevin Ellison directed the last two touchdown drives of the half, giving the Eagles fresh legs on a humid, 91-degree night.
McKinnon returned to start the third quarter and led the Eagles on a seven-play 65-yard march with backup William Banks scoring the first of his two touchdowns.
Meanwhile, the highly anticipated Air Raid offense of SSU’s was grounded in the early going. The Tigers didn’t pick up their initial first down until their sixth possession and 8:39 remained in the second quarter.
SSU (1-10 a year ago) didn’t cross midfield until midway through the third quarter and finally scored a touchdown on a 5-yard pass from backup Zach Hutcheson to Kris Drummond, breaking the string of 49 consecutive GSU points.
Southern’s offense continued to roll. Ellison, Torrance Hunt, Vegas Harley and Chris Jordan all scored their first career touchdowns for the Eagles.
Harley’s 30-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter was his first career touchdown on his first career carry.
Third-string fullback James Dean and fourth-string fullback Jordan scored the Eagles’ final two touchdowns.
Former Calvary star Steve Williams had an interception on the final play of the game.
Lightning in the area delayed the game 34 minutes at the start. Southern didn’t get its 2012 FCS-leading rushing offense going at the start. Despite good field position, kicker Connor Tierney missed a field-goal attempt of 33 yards, then had a 27-yarder blocked.