There aren't many good things to say about the first game of Georgia Southern's 2015 football season. After months of anticipation the Eagles slowly imploded Saturday night and will need to regroup in a major way before next weekend.
No disrespect to the dominant performance put in by West Virginia but this was not the same team we watched in 2014. The absence of suspended quarterback Kevin Ellison was felt as Favian Upshaw finished with just 33 passing yards in a four-interception performance.
It can't all be pinned on Upshaw though, especially with the offensive line struggles. Breaking in four new starters, the line could not contain WVU's defensive front and allowed consistent pentration that kept the offense from doing much of anything. After two drives the Eaglers were averaging less than a yard per carry and it never got much better.
It was a good night for the Mountaineers and coach Dana Holgorsen (who once coached at Valdosta State) that will leave Southern fans very concerned about next week's contest against Western Michigan. WMU kept it pretty close against Michigan State Friday night and I wouldn't be surprised to see them come into Paulson Stadium as a favorite.
If there was a bright spot for Georgia Southern it was the defense. The secondary gave up three long passes early on, including a 41-yard touchdown pass from Skyler Howard to Jovon Durante that opened the scoring. However, from there the D kept West Virginia out of the end zone until the game began to really unravel in the third quarter. The Mountaineers also had plenty of extra possessions thanks to a stream of Eagle turnovers.
Linebacker Antoine Williams was one of the few highlights, forcing a turnover on downs and generally causing disruption.
Southern looked like it was improving during the second quarter. West Virginia quit scoring and the Eagles began clicking, at least a little, on offense. But when Upshaw threw a long interception late in the quarter some of the air went out of the room for the Southern faithful.
At the half Southern had 89 yards, all on the ground, compared to 319 for their opponent. Upshaw was 0-for-6 passing with 33 rush yards on 11 attempts. Not pretty math.
The third quarter is when the game became a rout. Upshaw threw his second and third interceptions on his seventh and eighth pass attempts, and added a fourth before the quarter was over. On the other side the defense was finally overwhelmed as a Russell Shell rushing touchdown made it 23-0 early in the third. It then became 30-0, 37-0 and 44-0.
Southern finished 0 for 4 on 4th down conversions, had five turnovers, 195 rushing yards and 33 passing yards. Upshaw went 2 for 13. The defense gave up 544 yards, but again that's against a sharp offense that got quite a few extra cracks at the end zone.
All of that has to go in the rear view mirror along with the country roads if the season is going to get back on track. Fritz and Co. will need to regroup, maybe rethink a few things and definitely get Upshaw and the offensive line operating better before the home opener next weekend.