Dustin Taliaferro didn't get to make history on Saturday night.
The Georgia Southern Eagles focused on the run and opened the season in Birmingham, Ala. by winning for the first time in the last four tries against Samford
The Bulldogs rushed for only 61 yards while Taliaferro passed for 277.
"I thought our run fits were very good," said GSU coach Jeff Monken. "I thought our defensive line and our linebackers were where they were supposed to be in the run game. There were some pass plays where they got in between the secondary and the guys up front. The guys in the back had to make a bunch of tackles, but if we can stop guys from running the football, I like our chances."
Stanley earns SoCon honor
Redshirt freshman safety Deion Stanley earned Southern Conference Freshman of the Week honors, recording eight solo tackles (10 total) in the season opener.
"[Defensive coordinator Jack Curtis] was impressed with him in the spring," Monken said about Stanley, who found out he was starting on Friday afternoon. "He made a bunch of tackles and I was really pleased with the way he played Saturday night. He's still got some things to improve on, but he made a bunch of tackles."
Stanley shook off the recognition.
"It was a team win," he said Monday. "I'm just proud to be an Eagle. I just found out [about the award], but that was last week. This week, we're trying to go out and be 2-0."
The new-look Eagles?
Georgia Southern (1-0, 1-0 SoCon) spent nearly a quarter of the game running offensive plays out of the shotgun, something the Eagles hadn't done since 2009.
They ran option plays, designed runs and passes out of the formation.
Monken said that philosophically, nothing has changed offensively.
"It changes where the back hits," he said. "It does change us schematically a little bit, but it's not wholesale change to our offense."
Against Samford, it gave the Eagles an opportunity to change things up after the Bulldogs came out defending the perimeter.
"They took away the outside pitch from us," said quarterback Jaybo Shaw. "They made us hand the ball off and try to funnel everything back inside."
"It was about 25 percent of our snaps," added Monken. "We obviously practiced it last spring with our defense in mind, but we found we could do some good things out of it. We can still run the ball and we can still run the option. How much we'll use, I don't know, but it was great to be able to get some snaps out of it."
Back with a splash
Slotback Johnathan Bryant was injured in the 2010 season opener and didn't play another snap until Saturday. The biggest play of the game came to him — a 42-yard pass from Shaw.
"At the time, it was still 7-0," Bryant said. "Mostly, I was just trying to do something to motivate the team. I was hoping it would be a big play so we could get moving."
After making the catch, Bryant ran backwards to make a defender miss, before turning up the field for some extra yards.
"I wouldn't encourage it," he said with a laugh Monday, "but I was just trying to get the team motivated."
Cleaning up the turnovers
In GSU's last two games, including the semifinal loss to Delaware in December, the Eagles have fumbled away the ball nine times.
They committed four against Samford, including two in the seven-point first half.
"We were driving the ball on both of those drives and we stalled out with two turnovers. Obviously last year, in the last game, we lost five," Shaw said. "It's hard to win when you turn the ball over. We addressed it [Monday] and we always address it. We need to get better at that."
Not overlooking the Pioneers
Tusculum, Georgia Southern's opponent for Saturday's home opener, may be Division II, but that didn't mean anything in its 2010, 54-30 win over another SoCon foe.
"Tusculum is a heck of a football team," Monken said. "They beat Western Carolina much more handily than we did. They're going to be very well coached."
Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m. at Paulson Stadium.
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.