Eagles soar behind stout ground game

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STATESBORO, Ga. --- It's not often that Aristotle gets quoted at the Georgia Southern football practice field.

Georgia Southern fullback Robert Brown (right) ran for a career-high 178 yards during a victory over William & Mary in a Football Championship Subdivision playoffs second-round matchup.   Associated Press
Associated Press
Georgia Southern fullback Robert Brown (right) ran for a career-high 178 yards during a victory over William & Mary in a Football Championship Subdivision playoffs second-round matchup.

But the rapid improvement of true freshman fullback Robert Brown and the Eagles running game reminded offensive coordinator Brent Davis of the quotation in the team manual.

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit."

"(Brown) is hitting the hole faster," Davis said. "He's more confident in what he's doing. He's running with a lower pad level. He's working with the quarterback better. He's a lot more precise. It's repetition, that's the thing."

First-year coach Jeff Monken brought the triple-option attack back to Georgia Southern this season and, after much repetition, Brown and the offensive unit are approaching excellence.

They'll get a chance to take another step in a surprising season Saturday when the Eagles travel to Spartanburg, S.C., to meet Wofford in a Football Championship Subdivision quarterfinal matchup.

The offense might have never looked better than it did Saturday in the second round when the Eagles shredded William & Mary for 423 yards on the ground.

Brown made the biggest statistical impact, producing a career-high 178 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries.

"We knew (William & Mary) was a good team so we worked hard during the week," Brown said. "We went out there and did what we had to do and came out on top."

Brown is as humble as he is talented, usually deflecting credit to everyone from the offensive line that opens the holes to quarterback Jaybo Shaw, who hands him the ball.

The 5-foot-11, 194-pounder, who a year ago played at Westside High in Macon, stood out during the Eagles' preseason drills. And when projected starter Zeke Rozier suffered a knee injury, Brown was elevated to the top of the depth chart.

During Georgia Southern's current five-game winning streak, Brown is averaging 112 rushing yards a game.

"That's an important position to get going in our offense," Monken said. "If (the opponent) can shut you down there, you have to do a great job on the perimeter when you get the ball out there."

Brown played tailback at Westside so he had to make some adjustments to fullback at Georgia Southern.

At times, he's struggled to accelerate from a three-point stance. At times, he runs too upright. At times, he's had problems with fumbles.

The latter vice forced Monken to send Brown to the sidelines in the opening playoff game against South Carolina State. But a spotless performance after a career-high 24 carries against William & Mary gave a glimpse of his growing potential.

"The coaches preached all week (before William & Mary) that the most important thing is ball security," Brown said.

Davis saw improvement as a result of Aristotle's philosophy.

"It's just confidence in what you're doing," Davis said. "We don't run a lot of plays so we can narrow it down and you can work on your technique."

FCS Quarterfinals

WHO: Georgia Southern (9-4) at Wofford (10-2)

WHERE: Gibbs Stadium, Spartanburg, S.C.

WHEN: 2 p.m. Saturday

TV: ESPN Game Plan


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