It’s been said that playing middle linebacker is a lot like playing quarterback on defense.
When Georgia Southern true freshman Patrick Flowe got the start Saturday in GSU’s season opening, 58-0 win against Jacksonville, it was a pleasant surprise, especially considering the struggles of his first fall camp.
"I went into camp and hurt my hamstring," said Flowe, who recorded four tackles, including a sack, in his first college game. "Slowly, I recovered, and I just really keyed into what our team’s gameplan was. I listened, came in and studied and watched film. I’d be happy playing any role. I came in thinking I was going to redshirt. Most freshmen do. I kept working hard, and I was blessed to be able to play."
Four quarters into his career at GSU, the third-ranked Eagles (1-0) have still yet to surrender a point.
"It is what it is," said Flowe. "Our defense has really come together and we have something special."
Georgia Southern will begin Southern Conference play on Saturday against The Citadel (1-0) in Charleston, S.C., and it will be a complete shift in defensive mentality facing a triple option team after preparing for Jacksonville’s passing offense heading up to opening kick.
"What’s difficult is changing from a throwing-it-every-down to a running-it-every-down offense," said GSU coach Jeff Monken. "Obviously we’re going to face some teams on our regular-season schedule that are going to be better than the team we faced on Saturday night. That’s no knock on Jacksonville. It’s a just a respect we have for the Southern Conference, for the teams in this league."
A busy first day
When place kicker Ryan Nowicki transferred to Georgia Southern from Ole Miss, there was a battle going on at the position.
Nowicki won the job to replace four-year starter Adrian Mora, and was pretty busy in his first college football game, kicking seven extra points and a 38-yard field goal.
He made the field goal and missed one of the seven extra-point attempts.
"Those guys plant in the same place every single time on those extra points," Monken said. "He probably stepped on the side of the divot. He still should have made the kick, but it’s his first football game in college, so any little thing is going to throw him off."
That’s what happened, but Nowicki didn’t make any excuses regardless of whether or not there was a divot.
"Yeah, yeah. There was," he said. "But I’ve still got to make it."
With GSU rushing for touchdown after touchdown in the game, Nowicki wasn’t sure he’d get a shot at his first-career field goal.
"Towards the end we kept getting down in there and things just kept happening," Nowicki said. "I thought I wasn’t going to get a shot and I really wanted to go out there and hit one. Finally they called a field goal and I got my chance."
Ezayi Youyoute made a statement with his first-career start at quarterback.
With 15 different Eagles carrying the football, Youyoute led the team with 164 rushing yards and three touchdowns on only 11 carries.
Four different quarterbacks — Youyoute, Jerick McKinnon, Russell DeMasi and Matt Dobson — took snaps in the game and none completed a pass.
Though Youyoute seemingly secured the role as the team’s No. 1 signal caller, his mindset hasn’t changed.
"It all begins with hard work, and that’s what I’ve got to continue to do. You never know what may happen. We’ll just continue to keep working. You can’t be satisfied."
Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.