October 16, 2012
How about that for a Saturday night?
First of all, if the pregame military appreciation ceremony didn’t make you proud to be a part of this great country, someone needs to check your pulse. If you weren’t there, six paratroopers jumped into Paulson Stadium prior to the start of Saturday’s game — the last of which flew an American flag and landed right on the 50-yard line as the national anthem ended.
I’m sure I wasn’t the only person with chill bumps.
Then, there was the slugfest on the field. In a game that absolutely lived up to the hype, it wasn’t the high-powered offenses that provided the fireworks. Although this game featured two of the best rushing attacks in the nation — Wofford averaged 448 rushing yards per game coming in and Georgia Southern averaged 437 — this one was a defensive battle.
Georgia Southern’s defense kept the Terriers out of the end zone and held them to just 211 yards rushing and 248 total yards of offense. The Eagles accumulated 265 rushing yards and did not attempt a single pass in the 17-9 victory.
The win puts Georgia Southern atop the Southern Conference with a 4-1 record. Wofford and Appalachian State, who square off this Saturday, are tied in second place with a 3-1 mark. Chattanooga is 2-1, and everyone else in the conference has two or more losses.
Dominique Swope led the Eagle offense with 137 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries. Jerick McKinnon added 84 yards on 16 carries. This week’s game ball has to go to the entire Georgia Southern defense.
What a performance that unit turned in Saturday night. The Eagles held Eric Breitenstein to just 37 yards with the exception of one big 65-yard run. And even though he finished the night with 102 yards, he came up well short of his season average of 178 yards per game. And did I mention the defense held Wofford’s high-powered offense to just nine points?
Saturday’s game was the 200th in the history of Paulson Stadium. Georgia Southern owns a 169-31 record in those 200 games at Our House. The Eagles are also riding a 14-game home winning streak — the second longest current streak in all of FCS.
And now, it’s Furman week.
If you are familiar with this program at all, not much more needs to be said. But for those who may not know the history, we’ll recap quickly.
Georgia Southern and Furman first met in the 1985 national championship game. The Eagles won 44-42 on a play known around these parts simply as “The Catch.” Three years later, these two teams would meet again in the national title game. Furman won 17-12 as the Eagles fumbled the ball at the 5-yard line late in the game.
Georgia Southern joined the Southern Conference in 1993, and the two schools have played each other every year since —twice in 2001 when the Paladins handed the Eagles their first-ever home playoff loss in the national semifinals.
Last season, Southern torched Furman 50-20 in a game that was never close. Don’t think for a minute that Paladins have forgotten about that. The Eagles own a 15-8 all-time lead in the series, but very few games in this rivalry have been so lopsided.
Furman has fallen on tough times in recent years. The Paladins have not made the playoffs since 2006. They won’t see postseason play again this season, as they are currently 2-5 on the year and 1-3 in conference play. But the Paladins would love nothing more than to play spoiler this weekend. In my mind, these next two games are potential trap games on the road for the Eagles. Tattler prediction:
After a hard-fought, emotional win this past Saturday night, the Eagles will start slowly. But this is Furman, after all, so the team will be up to the challenge mentally and emotionally. Southern turns it on in the second half. Eagles 33, Paladins 17.