Georgia Southern had plenty to talk about during the 2012-13 season.
Off the field, the biggest news was that GSU is moving up to the Sun Belt Conference of the Football Bowl Subdivision, but there was plenty to write home about on the field, too.
The No. 1 rule of sports commentary is that when nothing’s really going on, make a list. So, in the spirit of list-making, here are the top five on-the-field stories from the last season.
5. Wanna be a Cowboy, baby
J.J. Wilcox arguably was the best slotback on the football team.
That’s why it came as a surprise when, before the start of his senior season, he was moved to defense to anchor a depleted secondary. Wilcox played 14 games at safety — in his life — and his performance was good enough to finish second on the team in tackles, pick off a couple of passes and become a vocal leader on the defense.
Arguably the biggest surprise came when NFL scouts caught wind of what Wilcox was doing and decided he was going to be an asset on the next level. Wilcox became the highest player drafted in GSU history when he was selected by the Dallas Cowboys in the third round of the draft. If his first 14 games at safety are any indication, he’s got a shot at making his mark on the NFL.
4. High-major take-down
OK, so Southern Conference teams fairly regularly take down high-major basketball programs.
But Georgia Southern had never beaten an Atlantic Coast Conference team.
That held true until Dec. 15, when the Eagles grabbed a wire-to-wire 78-73 win at Virginia Tech.
It was, however, bittersweet. Coach Charlton Young was let go after a disappointing season, and Cleon Roberts, a freshman who went nuts for 20 points and hit four 3-pointers in the win, announced his transfer to La Salle when the season ended.
Still, it was a historic win for a program whose only marquee wins of the previous decade came against UAB and Houston.
The win also removed some of the bad taste from the mouths of GSU fans after the previous day’s semifinal football loss at North Dakota State.
3. The rematch in Virginia
Everybody knew that when Georgia Southern faced Old Dominion in the quarterfinals of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs in Norfolk, Va., there would be plenty of offense. After all, the teams combined for 103 points when they met in the 2011 playoffs in Statesboro.
What nobody expected was for the GSU defense to go and get the win.
Sure, GSU’s offense scored 28 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to win 49-35, but, down 14 points in the third, the victory would have been impossible without a strip by senior defensive lineman Dion DuBose and an interception by — yes, he gets another mention — J.J. Wilcox.
With the exception of the Wofford game, GSU’s defense, while it didn’t lose any ballgames, didn’t win any either in 2012. They also didn’t force a whole lot of turnovers.
While it was unlikely, those two turnovers were the reason for GSU’s third-straight trip to the semifinals and, as it would turn out, the last FCS playoff win in program history.
2. History on the pitch
Lindsey Vanderspiegel’s stay at Georgia Southern was short, but sweet.
The Georgia Southern women’s soccer team had never won the Southern Conference title, but in Vanderspeigel’s third season at the helm of the program, they finally got it done.
Unlikely winners, eighth-seeded GSU took down No. 1 UNC Greensboro after the teams played to a 0-0 tie in regulation and two overtimes. The Eagles won 5-4 in the shootout.
1. Perfection, squared
Sarah Purvis didn’t have the season she expected.
Though she didn’t exceed her own expectations, she still won Southern Conference Pitcher of the Year (for the second time in a row), and still made GSU history — twice.
It started in a ho-hum game in an early-season tournament against Southern Illinois. All Purvis did was toss the first perfect game in school history.
What’s better than tossing a perfect game? Tossing a perfect game in the NCAA tournament.
Purvis did that against Hampton at the NCAA Gainesville, Fla., regional. It was her second perfect game of the season, the second in GSU history, and only the program’s second win in the NCAA tournament ever.
What’s the best part? Purvis will be back in 2014 for her senior season.