One play can be the difference between winning and losing. It can be the difference between agony and ecstasy. It doesn't have to be the final play of the game. It can come at any moment.
It can be a missed field goal. It can be a dropped pass. It may be failure to convert a key 4th down with time running out.
It can be a fumble on the opponent's one yard line.
Georgia Southern lined up in HC Willie Fritz's shot-gun attack for essentially the entire football game against North Carolina State on Saturday. With second and goal at NCSU's one yard line, leading 20-10 with just over 11 minutes to go in the game, Georgia Southern lined up under center. The snap was mishandled, NCSU recovered, and then proceeded to drive the length of the field for a touchdown.
Score a touchdown at that point and it's a three score game with just under eleven minutes to play. With that fumble, it became a one score game, and Georgia Southern ultimately failed to take advantage of their 17-3 half-time lead. When the clock struck all zeroes, NCSU escaped the opening weekend with a 24-23 victory over Georgia Southern.
A heartbreaking loss if you're a Georgia Southern fan, but one that definitely leaves plenty of hope for the future.
Willie Fritz's offense was effective against NCSU in Georgia Southern's first game. Georgia Southern moved the ball and did not struggle too much with the new concepts. They gained 438 yards on the day, including 192 through the air after famously not needing a single passing yard to defeat Florida last season. And speaking of passing...
Kevin Ellison was able to throw the football. Including one pretty touchdown pass to Kentrellis Showers late in the first half. The ability to throw the football will be key to ensuring the continuing success of this offense.
The kicking game. I thought kicking might be an issue when I saw that Alex Hanks had moved ahead of Younghoe Koo as the starting kicker, but Hanks performed fantastically hitting his three FG attempts and blasting kickoffs into the endzone.
Depth. In my preview for the game I predicated that NCSU's depth would win out. Georgia Southern's defense was on the field in blistering heat for 75 plays and could not make stops on NCSU's final two drives when it counted most.
Fumbles. Georgia Southern ended the game even in the turnover margin, but fumbles have been an issue for Georgia Southern for as long as I can remember. Often it has been errant pitches or mishandled reads when the QB pulls the ball from the B-back in the triple option, but QB-Center exchanges have been an issue in the past, as well. Georgia Southern is going to have to minimize any turnovers if they want to be successful going forward.
Georgia Southern shouldn't hang their head too low with this loss. They should use it as a driving force going forward. I don't know how good NCSU is going to be this season, but to go into an opponent's stadium in the opening game of the season with a brand new coach, brand new offense, and in the first year as an FBS school and walk out knowing you should have won the game... that's a good place to start from. A great place would have been a victory. I'll take good, though. Good is better than getting blown out. Good is believing Georgia Southern can shock some teams this year and have potential to be a Sun Belt contender going forward.