January 08, 2013
It’s been a few weeks since you last heard from me, and plenty has happened over the break.
Georgia Southern football went back to Fargo for a semifinal game against North Dakota State, and the 2012 edition of this match-up was much different than 2011. Georgia Southern drew first blood and took a 13-9 lead into halftime. A fumble on the opening drive of the second half followed by a Bison touchdown two plays later shifted momentum in favor of the home team, and the Fargodome was rocking.
But Southern fought back. Jerick McKinnon scored on a 25-yard touchdown run to give the Eagles a 20-16 advantage until late in the fourth quarter. Bison quarterback Brock Jensen scored on a quarterback draw on fourth and 3 from the GSU 5-yard line to put NDSU ahead 23-20 with 3:10 left.
Georgia Southern wasn’t quite done yet. A 40-yard pass to Zach Walker set up a 50-yard field goal attempt. Eagle soccer player Drew Ruggles, who walked on to the football team the morning the plane left for Fargo, trotted out to attempt the game-tying kick. The storybook ending was not to be, however. The Bison blocked the kick and advanced to their second straight national championship game.
It was a heartbreaking way to end the season for Georgia Southern. The Eagles were, in my opinion, the better team. Penalties and that one costly turnover proved to be the difference — and when you play a team as good as NDSU, those mistakes are magnified. The game ball goes to the seniors
who played their last game in the blue and white. Brent Russell set the school record for sacks in a career in the game against NDSU. JJ Wilcox got to run the ball one more time as he scored on a 4-yard touchdown run in what was his only offensive appearance of the season. This senior class started their Georgia Southern careers when the program was suffering through a stretch of mediocrity; they leave with two Southern Conference championship rings and three national semifinal appearances.
Russell, Wilcox, Darius Eubanks and Dion Dubose all will be participating in NFL scouting showcase games this offseason. Look for them in the Senior Bowl, the USA Freedom Bowl and the Raycom College Football All-Star Challenge. Congratulations, and good luck!
Georgia Southern’s 2012 season, while it did not reach the ultimate goal of a national championship, is nothing to be ashamed of — the Eagles tallied 10 wins and advanced to the national semifinals for the third straight season. And, by the way, North Dakota State trampled Sam Houston State in a rematch of last season’s title game by a score of 39-13.
Meanwhile, basketball season is entering conference play, and we are about to get to the games that really matter. Georgia Southern had some ups and downs over the break. The Eagles went on the road and dominated Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. They also came back from a 17-point first-half deficit to beat Georgia State in overtime at Hanner. Georgia Southern is now 32-13 all-time against the Panthers.
The Eagles also lost a couple of tough ones, falling to Bradley and UAB on the road and going 1-1 in the Las Vegas Classic just before Christmas.
As it stands, Georgia Southern is 6-9 overall and travels to Wofford Saturday night. The Eagles will be back to play three home games next week: Davidson Monday, College of Charleston Thursday and The Citadel Saturday. All three games are at
7 p.m. Needless to say, it’s a huge week for Eagle basketball.
The Lady Eagles have struggled. They have lost nine in a row and are 1-11 overall. The good news is that it’s still early. If the ladies can get some of these close losses to turn into wins in SoCon play, this season is far from lost. Next up for the Lady Eagles is a home game against Furman Wednesday night before hitting the road to Chattanooga and Samford this weekend.
Basketball season is in full swing, Eagle Nation. We’ll see you at Hanner!