Senior William Banks, a former Augusta Christian standout, got the start at running back over Dominique Swope, who was banged up in practice last week, Monken said.
Banks responded with a big game, rushing for 72 yards and scoring three touchdowns for the second time in his career.
Banks blasted through the middle for a 15-yard touchdown in the first quarter and later broke loose for an impressive 46-yard run to start the second half. He scored again from 2 yards out for the Eagles’ final touchdown with 3:05 left in the third quarter.
“The coaches called some great plays and the offensive line played great,” Banks said. “Jerick (McKinnon) made some nice reads … We just felt really good tonight.”
Eagles coach Jeff Monken was critical of his team last week despite the fact the Eagles outscored Savannah State by 68 points.
While he wasn’t completely satisfied with Georgia Southern’s performance against St. Francis, he seemed to be looking at the glass half full.
“I challenged the guys this week to play a better first half,” Monken said. “It was almost the same as last week. I was a little bit frustrated after the first half but on opposite sides of the ball. Last week on offense we missed some assignments and sputtered out. Tonight we scored on every drive after the first one.
“Defensively last week we did a good job, but this week had some opportunities to put them in long yardage situations, but we didn’t keep containment. Things like that frustrate me.”
Georgia Southern was forced to punt on its first possession. But the next time the Eagles got the ball, they benefitted from a risky decision that backfired on St. Francis.
On the Red Flash’s second possession, coach Chris Villarrial went for a fake punt from his own 46-yard line. Punter Lance Geesey got off easy when his errant throw was nearly picked off.
But the Eagles took advantage of the short field just three plays later when speedy Torrance Hunt got around the right end and poured on the jets — sprinting in for a 46-yard scoring run.
The scoring run opened the floodgates for Georgia Southern, which scored on every one of its next nine possessions.
The Red Flash had success running the ball and controlling the clock. Senior Kyle Harbridge rushed for 132 yards and St. Francis gained 230 yards on the ground. The Red Wave had the advantage in time of possession holding the ball 38:55 to GSU’s 21:05.
But time of possession doesn’t always translate to the scoreboard, where the Eagles reigned supreme.
Hunt, the speedy transfer from East Carolina, had a big impact again at running back with a team high 79 yards while averaging 15.8 yards per carry. He also caught a 56-yard pass from Kevin Ellison that set up another score.
The Eagle rushing game was its usual dominant self, as GSU ran for 306 yards. But the passing game was also strong as McKinnon and Ellison combined to complete 8 of 10 passes for 245 yards, the most the Eagles have thrown for since 2010 in a playoff game against Wofford.
McKinnon hit a wide open Kentrellis Showers on a past pattern for a 35-yard score in the second quarter and later found Montay Crockett from 50-yards out, on what was the redshirt freshman’s first career touchdown.