STATESBORO — His name is already forever linked to two of the biggest plays in Georgia Southern football history.
At Texas State, safety Matt Dobson picked off Tyler Jones in the end zone and returned it 102 yards for a touchdown on the last play of the third quarter, and it proved to be the game-winning points, lifting Georgia Southern to a 28-25 victory over the Bobcats. Officially a 100-yard return because the NCAA does not recognize yardage in the end zone, it tied the school record for the longest play in Georgia Southern history.
Three weeks later, with an undefeated season in the Sun Belt Conference and an outright league title on the line against Louisiana-Monroe, Dobson broke up a would-be Warhawk touchdown pass with three seconds left to preserve a 22-16 Eagle victory and conference championship.
“It got posted on Twitter, so I got some notifications,” Dobson said. “It’s always fun to go back and watch it. That will always be a good memory for me for the rest of my life, but there were a ton of plays made last year. The season as a whole was a memorable season, and that was just one play in a series of memorable plays throughout the year for Georgia Southern.”
Dobson, who came to Georgia Southern as a quarterback, was third on the team with 62 tackles last season and picked off three passes, returning two for touchdowns.
He showed his athleticism early in his career and spent a lot of time as a freshman on special teams before moving to safety in the spring before his sophomore campaign. Dobson believes his time as a quarterback has made him a better defender.
“I think it helps, knowing what goes through the quarterback’s mind before the snap and then once the ball is snapped, knowing kind of where he’s looking,” Dobson said. “I can read some things quicker.”
The senior has become a direct extension of the Georgia Southern coaching staff on the field, and his work ethic and passion for the game help set the tone for the younger players on both sides of the ball.
“He’s one of the smarter players I’ve coached,” said GSU defensive coordinator and secondary coach Jack Curtis. “He’s a real student of the game — he really enjoys coming out and practicing every day. He provides a lot of leadership, not only in knowing what to do but in how hard he comes out and practices every day.”
For Dobson and the Eagles, a Sun Belt title in their first FBS season was a nice start, but they are hungry for more.
“When you win championships, it’s kind of contagious and everybody wants more, and I think that’s the kind of team we’ve got,” he said. “When you win one, that hunger for more gets so great.”
Here are the remaining dates for spring football:
• Friday, April 10
• Saturday, April 11
• Monday, April 13
• Wednesday, April 15
• Friday, April 17
• Saturday, April 18 — Spring Game
Tailgate Cook-Off set
The second annual Spring Football Tailgate Cook-Off is set for April 18 at Paulson Stadium.
The top-place tailgate and grill masters will claim the title of 2015 Spring Football Tailgate Cook-Off Champion, a trophy, a one-night stay at a hotel plus two tickets to the Georgia Southern vs. Georgia game Nov. 21 in Athens.
To enter the contest, a team or individual must register online by April 14 and pay $20 per entry on- site April 18. All teams or individuals are responsible for providing their own food and equipment for grilling/cooking and will be allowed only one vehicle inside the cook-off zone.
Eagle fans are invited to serve as tasting judges for $3 to enter the tailgate zone, sample the food and complete a ballot to determine the top four. Scores from the tasting judges will be calculated and winners will be announced during the Blue-White Spring Football game. Tasting will begin at 11 a.m. and conclude at 12:30 p.m.
The second-place contestant will receive four tickets and two sideline passes to the home football game against Texas State on Oct. 29 on ESPNU. Third place will claim two tickets and two meal vouchers to the home football game against South Alabama on Nov. 28. Fourth place will walk away with an autographed football and Georgia Southern prize pack.
The Eagle Football Alumni Association (EFAA) will hold its eighth annual $10,000 Reverse Raffle and Auction at 5 p.m. Saturday, April 18, in the Gene Bishop Field House at Paulson Stadium following the Blue & White Spring Game.
There will be a silent and live auction, which will feature items such as autographed memorabilia, vacation opportunities, Georgia Southern game experiences, Georgia Southern football memorabilia, autographed memorabilia from local professional teams and more.
In addition, the third edition Erk Russell commemorative shotgun will be auctioned off in the live auction. This year’s theme for the shotgun is “Yellow School Buses.” The final 10 tickets in the reverse raffle will be drawn after the live auction, and the final ticket will win $10,000.