Well, it certainly wasn't always pretty, but it was also never really in doubt.
A writer for the Auburn site has come up with an interesting metric for measuring domination of an opponent. Rather than simple Margin of Victory (MoV), he calculates a "knockout" in college football to occur at the point in which the losing team last held the ball with the ability to at least tie the game. Each week he awards the Ronda Rousey Award for Fastest Knockout. You can see this week's standings, here.
Now why would I bring this up? Especially since Georgia Southern isn't listed in this week's standings (he only tracks FBS vs FBS games). Well, I took a look at when the "knockout" occurred in Statesboro this weekend, and it was when the Citadel's 4th down pass fell incomplete on their second drive with 8:30 left on the clock in the first quarter. There was 53:30 left on the game clock. That would register as the fourth fastest knockout in the nation last weekend. Just behind... well, let's not talk about that.
The final score was 48-13, with a margin of victory of 35 points. The Citadel's points were all in the second half. They gained over 300 yards on the ground. However, the game was never really in doubt.
Haisten recapped the specifics of the game Saturday evening. I'm not going to rehash the events of the game, since he's already done that. Instead, let's just look at the pros and cons of the game.
The Offense. The whole offense, not just the ground game. Kevin Ellison and Favian Upshaw combined for 12/19 passing and 101 yards. That's not spectacular by any stretch, but when you also put up 383 yards on the ground, then you've got an offense that's going to be pretty hard to beat as long it converts in the red zone.
I like that Georgia Southern threw the ball more in this game. It shows the coaches were confident in the team's ability to win, but knew they needed to get some work in, as well. There will be teams who will shut down the running game at times. The Eagles are going to need to be able to throw the ball to open that back up. Had Georgia Southern stuck to the ground game and what they do best, I have no doubt the MoV would have been considerably larger. Instead, they used the game to get in some work throwing the ball. And, let's face it, it's not just the quarterbacks who've needed some work in that area, so far.
Kicking Game. I'm hesitant to say too much about this, since it seems like I jinxed it once or twice last year, but the kicking game has been excellent. Kickoffs are going through the end zone, punts are getting covered, extra points are made with no problems, and the field goals are coming through, too. Consistent kicking can be the difference between disappointment and excellence. I shouldn't need to tell Georgia Southern fans that, though. Every one of us knows how 2012 might have been different if a few field goals are made.
Defensive Turnovers. Georgia Southern started the season -5 in the Turnover Ratio. That's horrible. You could reasonably expect 3-4 games just to get back to even, much less get into the positive numbers.
Instead, Georgia Southern was back to a -1 ratio after Game 2. Following Game 3, the Turnover Ratio is now +3. That's spectacular.
What's even more shocking to me, who was worried about the pass defense this season after seeing it abused at times last year, is how many of those have been interceptions: four are fumbles, five of them are interceptions. The Citadel, as an option team, doesn't throw the ball that often, but Georgia Southern still snagged two. Chalk that up to a team not used to passing if you want, but the Eagles also created interceptions against a good passing offense in Western Michigan.
The Running Backs. If the defense continues taking the ball away at this rate, it will be very hard for opponents to beat Georgia Southern. More possessions means more chances for Matt Breida to do Matt Breida things, and let's face it: with Breida it's always only a matter of time. He's always just one slipped tackle or one bad angle by a defensive back away from torching the opponent.
LA Ramsby and Wesley Fields just add to the fun. Ramsby is a known quantity. I was a little down on him early last season after seeing Breida's explosiveness, but I came to recognize that what I was down on is actually his greatest strength. Ramsby isn't a burner. Sometimes he looks slow and hesitant behind the line. What he really is is patient. He is great at watching and waiting for the hole, and then hitting it with power and good speed in his own right. He's the bruiser, and he's very good at it. Fields is almost a hybrid of them both, and he may even be the more elusive of the three at making people miss.
With these three, it's almost like we have The Wolfpack 2.0.*
318 Rushing Yards Allowed. I'm not as down on this as I could be, but that's mainly due to what the Eagles did to Western Michigan's defense the week before. It's a bit concerning that El Cit was able to gain as much as they were using an offense that should be familiar to our defense, but Navy and Georgia Tech did the same last week. The defense really practices against what the opponents do every week, so it's not as if they are seeing The Option And Nothing But The Option. Plus, it's still a very tough offense to defend.
Ball Security. Ok, it's minor, but I didn't want to just have one "The Bad." Chaz Thornton's big run was awesome, but switch that ball to the sideline arm and pay a bit more attention to holding on to it, Chaz. That's not a very good way to move up the depth chart.
The Paulson Stadium Crowd. After making 5-6 games last season, it's looking like my schedule is only going to let me make 1-2 at best, this year. What this game showed me is that I better go ahead and buy my tickets, now. This is the type of game that used to draw weak crowds. Lower division opponent? Obvious blowout situation? Oh, and a certain other State School playing around the same time? That used to mean a small crowd.
Instead, it was the largest regular season crowd in Paulson Stadium history. It was the second largest crowd in Georgia Southern football history. Only the 1989 National Championship Game was larger. THAT is amazing. That shows the trajectory Georgia Southern football is on. I can't wait to watch it continue to grow.
*For those who've never heard it, "The Wolfpack" was what the original backfield of Tracy Ham, Gerald Harris, Ricky Harris, etc. called themselves. This really could be probably more than the second version, though. We've had some REALLY good backfield combinations over the years.