• What: Savannah State (0-1) at Georgia Southern (0-1)
• When: 6 p.m. Saturday
• Radio: Georgia Southern Radio Network; 90.3 FM (SSU)
• Online: gseagles.com; ssuathletics.com
Well, the Football Bowl Subdivision era is officially under way at Georgia Southern, with the Eagles dropping a heartbreaker last Saturday at North Carolina State.
So, what did we learn?
First, foremost and most importantly, Georgia Southern is big enough, strong enough, talented enough, well-coached enough and way, way more-than-fast enough to compete with the Sun Belt, not to mention the rest of FBS.
You could point to a number of reasons why GSU lost the 24-23 game, but only one matters — Kevin Ellison’s fumble on the 1-yard line in the fourth quarter. Period.
Without that, it’s 27-10 and our ladyfriend is singing.
And that’s not to say that the loss was Ellison’s fault. Far from it.
Ellison looked like a star out there among the Wolfpack, not the sophomore quarterback he, by all prognostication, should have looked like. He passed for 184 yards and also was the game’s leading rusher with 116 yards.
The kid stood in a collapsing pocket in the second quarter and completed a pass on third-and-8 to move the chains. Then, when seconds were ticking off until halftime and it was third-and-long again, Ellison rolled out to the right and saw enough green in front of himself to run for the first down, but chose to sling a rope into the end zone for a touchdown. That’s veteran stuff.
So yeah, blaming the loss on him is silly.
Then there was the fourth-and-2 decision to go up six with a field goal rather than go for the conversion, keep the ball, use more clock and go for a TD and a two-score lead.
First-year head coach Willie Fritz said after the game that if he had to do it again, he’d go for it, but he “played it safe.”
There was the fact that the defense was out of gas during N.C. State’s final two touchdown drives, too. Lack of depth really can’t be pinned on a first-year head coach.
And anyway, as we discussed, without that fumble, none of those things matter. And you never know. Without Ellison calling the shots out there, the Eagles may never even have been in a position to win the game in the first place.
At the end of the day, Georgia Southern has, for all intents and purposes, been an FBS program for less than a week, and they came within a razor’s edge of beating an Atlantic Coast Conference team.
That’s not too shabby, and it bodes well for the rest of the season.
If GSU avoids major injuries and plays, coaches and shows up like it did last Saturday in Raleigh for the rest of the season, the Eagles will find themselves with a chance to win the ballgame in every single fourth quarter this season.
And with a QB like Ellison and that kicking game — how have I not mentioned the amazing jobs of Alex Hanks and Ryan Nowicki yet? — they’ll have a chance to win every one of those games, too.