Originally created 12/15/01

Georgia Southern's quest for third straight title

STATESBORO, Ga. -- Georgia Southern coach Paul Johnson, who has accepted the job as Navy head coach for next season, insists everything has been normal this week as the Eagles prepare for the NCAA Division I-AA semifinal against Furman on Saturday.

Johnson accepted the Navy position Sunday, one day after Southern beat Appalachian State 38-24 in the quarterfinals. He is seeking a third consecutive national title in his fifth season with the Eagles.

Georgia Southern senior quarterback and captain J.R. Revere wasn't surprised Johnson took the job at the larger, Division I school. He said Johnson's departure would not change his preparation for Furman.

"I think, first of all, you've got to be mature," Revere told The Greenville (S.C.) News earlier in the week following practice. "And I think from the way things were going today, everybody's taking the proper steps."

Senior linebacker Corey Middlebrooks said that given Johnson's success (62-9) it was "time for a change" for the coach.

"I'm not said, I'm happy," he said. "But I'm feeling it for the younger guys. Some of them didn't take it very good. The seniors had to tell them to make the best of the situation, not to get down."

Johnson said he would have preferred to keep his acceptance of the job private until after the season, but said he doesn't see any effect on the team.

"We're focused on practicing, and everything's like normal," he said. "I'm here, and I'm gonna be here till we finish playing, so nothing's changed that way other than, you don't have to lie to people."

The Eagles (12-1), seeking a seventh national championship, will play Southern Conference opponent Furman for the second time this season. Georgia Southern won the regular season game 20-10.

Furman (11-2) advanced last week with a 34-17 win over Lehigh, playing without leading rusher Louis Ivory. The 2000 Walter Payton award winner sprained a medial collateral ligament in his left knee two weeks ago.

Three sophomores - Toreico O'Neal, Hindley Brigham and Lamar Rembert filled in and rushed for 299 yards among them. O'Neal had 128 yards on the ground, including touchdown runs of 35 and 7 yards.

"I feel confident that they could come in give us at least close to the same production," Furman coach Bobby Johnson said.

He said Ivory is doubtful for the game although he has been running straight ahead during practice, but has not tried to cut.

"We're not sure who's going to play, but you prepare to play Ivory, and if he doesn't play, you've still prepared yourself to stop the best," said Georgia Southern linebacker Michael Youngblood.


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