I’m confident that most of you reading this know by now that South Alabama beat Mississippi State in their season opener. Should Mississippi State have won the game? Yea, probably, but they didn’t. If South Alabama proved anything in that game, it was that they were much improved over previous Jaguar teams we’ve seen the last three years. Georgia Southern did not need extra motivation going for their first road opening win since 2011, but I’m sure the players dialed up their intensity a bit at practice last week.
I was excited to watch the Eagles get their first real test of the year. Facing Savannah State to open the season really didn’t show me a lot, other than Georgia Southern (along with pretty much every other football team across our nation) being a heckuva lot better than Savannah State. South Alabama led their team out to a somewhat disappointing crowd of 17,691 fans. If you’re a Georgia State fan, that number probably gives you the feel-good tingles throughout your body, but I really thought Jaguar fans would come out in droves after their opening week victory. The Jags’ student section was rowdy at times, but the rest of the attendees brought me back to the wine and cheese crowd days of attending GS vs Wofford games in Spartanburg, SC. Georgia Southern brought around 300 fans to the game, which could be heard more clearly on TV at times than the 17,000 plus Jaguar faithful, and make no mistake, Southern’s players thrived off of it. Hearing the “One More Time” chant on South Alabama’s final possession was, and always will be awesome when it happens in an opposing teams stadium.
FaviAn (yes, I did that on purpose with the “A”) Upshaw got the starting nod this week as we were told he would by Coach Tyson Summers. Before I go any further, I need to apologize to Favian. Last week, I mentioned his name a couple of times in my column, and I spelled it incorrectly. As a guy that constantly gets his name spelled wrong (BrYan), I should have paid closer attention to that. My bad, Fav, thanks for being cool about it, and thank you to one of the best professors in Georgia Southern’s School of Business, Miss Susan Roach, for pointing it out to me. Nothing like finding out you spelled one of the stars on your favorite team’s name wrong. -Insert facepalm here-
Unlike so many other teams running a dual quarterback system, Favian Upshaw and Kevin Ellison make it look easy. Having two talented quarterbacks that trade time comes in handy when one of them goes down. Which is what happened in the first half of this game after Kevin Ellison took a hard shot. Ellison exited the game grasping his left arm, and Favian seamlessly took over the reigns for the rest of the half. The Eagles took a 10-6 lead into halftime, which easily could have, and should have been more than four points. An early fumble on South Alabama’s one yard line, some penalties by upperclassmen on the offensive line, and poor clock management just before halftime made the score look a lot closer than the game actually was. Score aside, the Eagles dominated the game in every facet in the first two quarters, and the same would continue in the second half.
Kevin Ellison was back under center on Georgia Southern’s first possession in the 3rd quarter, at which point all of Eagle Nation breathed a collective sigh of relief. Big Blue went “Wings Up” on that drive with Wesley Fields scampering in on a 5 yard touchdown run, and never looked back. Kevin Ellison would also add an impressive 27 yard run to finish off the Eagles scoring. Ellison and Upshaw combined for roughly two-thirds of all the Eagles’ rushing yards, due in large part to South Alabama doing everything they could to shut down Matt Brieda. If teams continue to focus on stopping Mr.#HeGone Brieda, the two-headed quarterback monster along with Wesley Fields and L.A. Ramsby will continue to shine, especially in that shotgun wing-t formation the Eagles surprised us with. I don’t even know what to call that offensive set, but whatever it was, was simply awesome. Bravo to OC Rance Gillespie on drawing that up, and to the players for executing it to perfection!
The biggest story of the day was the defense. When Jessie Liptrot recorded his first career interception (which will be the first of many with this kid’s talent) on a Dallas Davis pass 5 yards deep in the endzone late in the fourth quarter, it put an exclamation point on an already extraordinary day by the Eagle defense. Saturday also marked the second straight game where Georgia Southern kept their opponent out of the endzone. As a matter of fact, it was the first time in Southern’s modern era of football that the team has not allowed a touchdown in two straight games. I don’t care who you’re playing, not allowing a touchdown on 28 consecutive drives is most impressive. When interviewed after the game, defensive back Josh Moon credited the defensive line and linebackers for making his job easier, and he’s right. Linebacker Todd Bradley is yet another true freshman already making an impact for the Eagles. Bradley played like a seasoned upperclassmen on Saturday, and fits in perfectly with the likes of Ironhead Gallon, Ukeme Eligwe, Ken Butler Jr and the rest of the LB core. I’m stoked to see what he, Liptrot, and the rest of the Eagles defensive will do this fall!
This weekend the Eagles will face another conference opponent in ULM. Louisiana-Monroe comes in after being forcefully taken down by #13 Oklahoma last week. In 2015 the Eagles put up 51 points against the Warhawks, and I’m hoping for more of the same this Saturday at Paulson. The last I heard, there’s less than 1,000 tickets remaining for the game. What do you say Eagle Nation, invite your friends, and let’s pack the Prettiest Little Stadium in America on Saturday! GATA, Eagles!