For the first time in my life I watched a football game from the press box. I sat next to the awesome Holly Anderson from Grantland.com, formerly of SI and before that EveryDayShouldBeSaturday.com. I was genuinely worried about my ability to be impartial at a football game as you're supposed to be in the press box. I am happy to say that I had no trouble doing so, other than a few chuckles when Kevin Ellison was making ridiculous cuts.
I was able to maintain that professionalism because this was a thoroughly uninteresting football game. I remember Holly sitting next to me saying something along the lines of "oh, come on, Georgia Southern, let them have a little something, first" when Troy fumbled the opening kick-off. It's rare that you can say a game is over from literally (1)* the first play, but I really think this one was.
Until their final drive of the game Troy had amassed only 80 total yards and 3 points. Those points came after a Matt Breida fumble late in the 1st quarter. Troy did manage to make their yardage total look a little better with that final drive, but it was really just a display of offensive ineptitude for most of the game - combined with a great performance by Georgia Southern's defense.
The one thing Troy did do was limit the big plays by Georgia Southern's running backs. That opened it up for the quarterbacks to gain the majority of the yardage, but Matt Breida was held without a touchdown for only the second time this season and did not have any big gains at all.
It was a good tune-up game for the Eagles before going into the final stretch of tough games to close out the year. The Eagles have three more games remaining, and all three will be tough sledding that will really test just how good Georgia Southern is in their first season in the Sun Belt.
The Quarterbacks. Kevin Ellison and Favian Upshaw combined for 40 yards passing and 195 yards rushing. They were the leaders in rushing on the team. It was obvious that Troy was selling out to stop the running backs, and the quarterbacks answered. Often they answered by making cuts and moves that left Troy defenders looking silly. The quarterback play was fantastic in this game and exactly what we want to see out of them.
The Running Game. No single player got over 100 yards rushing (Ellison was the closest with 99), yet the offense still ran for over 420 yards and kept their year average over 400/game. Nine different Eagles carried the rock on Thursday night.
The Defense. Anytime you give up only 80 yards and 3 points going into the final minutes of a game, it is a fantastic performance. The defense didn't really even get any sacks until the 2nd half, when they really turned it up. I really wish they could have kept Troy under 100 yards, but that is something that is very hard to do against anyone. The defense tackled well and made plays when it needed to for most of the night. Hopefully this game was a confidence builder for going down the stretch.
Fumbles. Still a bit of a problem. There were some errant pitches that would been better to have just taken the loss of yards. However, this hasn't been as much of a problem this year as I've made it out to be at times. The problem is that the stakes on many of these turnovers have just been so high. The turnovers against Troy led to 3 points and did not affect the overall game.
I pretty much said it earlier, but this was a good tune-up for the Eagles. It is highly unlikely that Georgia Southern will find a way to make a bowl game, but winning the final three games would go a long way towards that goal if the stars align and enough teams lose to trigger the exception to policy.
Next week is going to be a tough game at Texas State. Then they will travel to Annapolis to take on the Naval Academy before a week off prior to the Louisiana-Monroe game.
And on a final note, I'd like to thank Rose Carter with Georgia Southern for all the help she's given me in being able to talk to people this season, AD Tom Kleinlein for speaking with me for a few minutes prior to the game in what was essentially my first ever person-to-person interview, and to Terry Harvin - GSU Radio Color Analyst - for showing me around the Football Operations Center (or "The Ted" as he is trying to get it referred to as) after the game.
I was also able to briefly meet Tracy Ham - which for me is like if the Auburn side of me got to meet Bo Jackson - after the game along with Victor Cabral, Georgia Southern's Director of Player Personnel. They were all very friendly and welcoming and hopefully I'll be able to speak more with some of them as I work on a detailed story of Georgia Southern football.
*The use of "literally (1)" comes from the EDSBS.com commentariat and the disdain for the misuse of the word and that there are some dictionaries that now have two definitions for "literally," one of which is the definition we all know, and the other literally (1) means "figuratively."