ATHENS – So, you thought Georgia Southern had a chance for the upset. Realistically, the Eagles weren’t supposed to have a prayer against the No. 1 Bulldogs and in reality, when the two teams took the field, they didn’t.
It was pretty evident right off the bat that UGA had a slight (to put it nicely) advantage in the trenches on both sides of the ball. That, and the Bulldog passing game was just a step or two ahead of the GSU secondary.
Other than that, believe it or not, those two teams were actually kind of evenly matched - as far as an FCS/FBS matchup goes, anyway.
I know what you’re probably thinking. You think I’m just trying to sugar coat a blowout and try to ease the minds of all of the Georgia Southern faithful.
The Eagles got beat up and down the field by a bigger, stronger and much, much faster Georgia team (defensively, that is). That much is pretty clear. Besides, you can’t sugar coat a 45-21 final score no matter how hard you try.
But that’s what was supposed to happen.
You can’t, however, ignore the fact that 20-something freshmen took the field in that game. And most of the Eagles’ mistakes were the kind of errors young players commit.
A team with experience would have scored on 1st-and-goal from the 1-yard line. A more mature quarterback wouldn’t have lobbed one into double coverage on that drive, either.
But that’s not the point. The point is - they got there.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Lee Chapple was a bit shaky in the first couple of drives, but he got a chance to come back in the second half and show off a little bit of what he could do.
Both Chapple and Antonio Henton showed signs of things to come in the future of Georgia Southern football. In fact, Chapple looked like a veteran when he orchestrated those two touchdown drives in the second half.
I’ll be honest. I went into the game thinking it was going to be an ugly blowout. It turned out to be just… a blowout. It looked like a game between the No. 1 team in the FBS and the No. 17 team in the FCS should look.
And that’s one heck of a lot better than I expected.
I’m not going to lie, before Saturday’s game, I was thinking somewhere in the realm of a 4-7 or 5-6 record for Georgia Southern in 2008.
My expectations have gotten one heck of a lot higher after what I saw what the Eagles did in Athens.
Let’s face it. It is a rebuilding year. The o-line’s too young, the quarterbacks are too young and the running backs are too young for the Eagles to be successful in 2008.
Just when I start to doubt what Chris Hatcher can do, the GSU coach proves he’s the real deal.
Those Eagles may be extremely young, but they have some talent, and a lot of room for growth. Sure, GSU lost in a big way to the Bulldogs. But I believe that Hatcher got the most out of each and every kid that took the field.
The offensive line was supposed to be a disaster, but they got it done like they’ve been in front of 92,000 screaming fans before.
Just wait until they get some love from the home crowd.
And, by the way, both of those running backs were true freshman. As a matter of fact, each of the three touchdowns GSU put on the Bulldogs was made possible by one of Hatcher’s freshmen.
All of those things bode well for the Eagles this season and obviously, well into the future. Those kids grew up a lot between those hedges on Saturday, and for most of them, they’re just getting started.
Coach Hatcher’s Eagles may not be world beaters right now, but there’s a lot of talent in blue and white on those sidelines.
He might not have the most experienced squad in the world, but you can bet he’ll get the most out of what he’s got – next week, next month and, if their a little lucky, on into December.
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9404.