On Saturday afternoon, 25 October 2014, Georgia Southern definitively answered whose program is at the higher level between the two GSUs.
Not that there should have been much question to begin with. I don't mean that as a slight to Georgia State, it's just that an established program of thirty years is going to be more developed in terms of fan support, history, strength, etc than a program of five years. Haisten has already discussed just why Georgia Southern fans have been so passionate about this rivalry. Both sides were looking forward to this game from the moment it was announced.
I think Georgia State fans likely came to dread it as they realized just how well Georgia Southern adjusted to the Sun Belt and FBS football.
Georgia Southern fans were rabidly awaiting this day.
If you just look at the scoreboard, it appears this game was an absolute blowout. Scoreboards and stats can be a bit deceiving, though. Georgia State played a hard fought game and this had the makings of an offensive shootout. However, the Eagles made just enough stops and the Panthers had just enough drops that the game got away from them and resulted in the final score of 69-31.
The results of this first game will be talked about for a long time. The Panthers don't have to hang their head over it too low, though. They have a high-powered offense themselves that is capable of scoring points. They're a few pieces away from having a good football team in their own right.
But for Saturday - in the first football game between these two teams - Georgia Southern came away with the Double-U.
The Pitch Play. The pitch, the pitch, the glorious pitch. Georgia Southern got the receivers and the running backs involved in a manner that really made me think I was watching a Paul Johnson or Jeff Monken offense at times. It was glorious to see the receivers play like the A-backs of old and gain chunks of ground (and points) on the perimeter.
The Power Play. I'm beginning to wonder why Georgia Southern ever punts if it's 4th and less than 2-3 yards. It seems like the Eagles are capable of lining up and shoving it down the throat of every team they face. That is largely due to the unbelievable performances of the Hawgs up front. This is an offense deserving of the Georgia Power Company moniker.
Matt Breida Does Matt Breida Things. Twice. Breida is averaging 9.6 yards per carry and a touchdown every 9 touches. He's good. He's very good. If he had a bit more durability (and we didn't have LA Ramsby as well), I don't even want to think of what his numbers would be. Ok, yes, I do. They could be record breaking. Breida is a terror to opposing defenses. If you load the box and he breaks containment, you can just go ahead and put an Eagle Six on the scoreboard.
LA Ramsby. Up until just after the South Alabama game I was questionable on Ramsby. Sure, he was a good running back, but he wasn't the threat that Breida is. He still may not be the home-run threat of Breida, but over the past few games it seems something has clicked for the freshman and he is really coming into his own as the power back in Georgia Southern's arsenal. Ramsby has really impressed me over the past few weeks, and this backfield is going to be something special over the next few seasons.
The White Out. I think saying it was 2:1 Georgia Southern fans is conservative. On TV it definitely appeared that Georgia Southern fans vastly outnumbered the Panthers fans. I loved seeing the camera pan over the Eagles' sections and show just how many people came to the game and just how many people answered the call of the White Out.
Pass Defense. Was there every any question that this would be listed here? Georgia State had just over 400 yards in the air and had receivers wide open for touchdowns on multiple occasions. Georgia Southern is lucky one in the third quarter was dropped that could have helped the Panthers stay in the game. As it was, that drop of an easy touchdown and the subsequent missed field goal really sucked what little life from the Panthers that remained after the Eagles' 2nd half opening onslaught.
This wasn't exactly surprising. Georgia Southern's pass defense hasn't been all that great all season long in between the 20s. Where it has normally been fantastic is in the red zone.
Let's look at the TD pass numbers for Georgia State, shall we: 3 yards, 59 yards, 35 yards, 36 yards.
Hmmm... So of their four touchdowns, only one was in the red zone. So I guess the key is to beat the Eagles on the deep ball if you want to throw touchdown passes. Hopefully Georgia Southern fixes this going forward into the last few games.
I would like to have seen the pass defense perform a bit better, but overall this was a pretty good football game for the Eagles; especially offensively. The running game set a Sun Belt record with 613 yards rushing. Breida ran for 200+ on only 12 carries (Breida things, y'all).
On to Thursday night. It's a short week. Georgia Southern goes from meeting a new foe to welcoming an old foe. It's been 19 years since we last saw the Trojans of Troy. It's time to pick up that rivalry where we left off. Winning. If you're an Eagle fan and you can make it to this game, then please do it. Sun Belt attendance is ridiculed in comments over these week night games. Let's pack Paulson and show the nation the Eagles mean business.