Stopping Georgia Southern QB McKinnon is NDSU's top priorityFARGO — Georgia Southern will board an airplane on Thursday for its Division I Football Championship Subdivision semifinal game at North Dakota State. It wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibilities if Jerick McKinnon was one of the pilots. He’s done just about everything else.
By: Jeff Kolpack, Forum Communications
FARGO — Georgia Southern will board an airplane on Thursday for its Division I Football Championship Subdivision semifinal game at North Dakota State. It wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibilities if Jerick McKinnon was one of the pilots.
He’s done just about everything else.
He will be the No. 1 priority for the Bison defense on Friday night in a game that sends the winner to the FCS title game in Frisco, Texas. Since coming to GSU three years ago, McKinnon has played quarterback, running back, defensive back, wide receiver, returned kicks and has been on the kickoff coverage and punt block teams.
“He is a dynamic athlete,” said Georgia Southern head coach Jeff Monken.
He’s been dynamic since taking over the quarterback duties full-time earlier this season. The Eagles started sophomore Ezayi Youyoute the first four games. Although 3-1 in that start, Monken said the coaching staff felt like McKinnon, a running back, wasn’t getting his hands on the ball enough.
So they moved him back to quarterback, where he played sparingly as a backup to Jaybo Shaw last year. McKinnon started seven games at various positions last year, finishing the year with the rare combination of throwing, catching and running for at least one touchdown.
“We felt like making him the quarterback would make him more productive,” Monken said. “So we made the switch and made him the guy.”
The switch has translated into the 5-foot-9, 208-pound McKinnon being the team’s leading rusher with 1,649 yards. He’s averaging 6.9 yards a carry with 19 touchdowns.
It’s not often, Monken said, that the quarterback is the unquestioned rushing leader in his triple option offense. Shaw, who started all 14 games last year, had just 420 yards rushing with a season long of 33 yards compared to McKinnon’s long run this year of 87.
“Last year, their quarterback kind of facilitated things,” said Bison defensive end Ricky Hagen. “This year, this guy is a true home run hitter.”
Normally, the “B back” position is the team leader, which in this case is handled by Dominique Swope. He scored his team’s only touchdown in last year’s 35-7 NDSU semifinal win.
Swope has 1,169 yards this year on 190 attempts. But he also missed three starts this season with a concussion. McKinnon, however, has more than picked up the slack in an offensive scheme that has had several productive rushing quarterbacks over the years.
“I know they liked their quarterback last year, and he was more of a thrower,” said NDSU defensive coordinator Chris Klieman. “This guy is a running back. He’s a special, special football player that can single-handedly beat you because he has that much ability.”