Eagles fall 44-0 in opener against WVU

Hayden Boudreaux

Inside the stadium on the rugged campus of West Virginia University, there was a tiny sliver of blue and white fans packed into the corner of the end zone to cheer on their Eagles. 55,182 fans from both sides were packed into Mountaineer Field and no one was sure of what to expect from either team.

The Mountaineers seemed to be off to a rough start after two consecutive penalties resulting in them losing 20 yards to start the game. However, they quickly regained their confidence and went on a nine play, 87 yard drive down the field which was capped off with a 41 yard touchdown pass to give themselves a 7-0 lead.

On offense, the Eagles were forced to go three and out on the first drive. West Virginia followed up with a 57 yard completion down near the 20 yard line of Georgia Southern. The Eagle defense was able to hold and the Mountaineers came away with only a field goal. This would be a continuous trend for the rest of the half.

The second Eagle drive resulted in a fumbled pitch between quarterback Favian Upshaw that was scooped up by WVU. After a short drive and a failed fourth down conversion the Mountaineers were forced to hand the ball back to the Eagles.

Things started to pick up for the offense as they ran for two first downs but a penalty killed the drive and forced a punt. The Mountaineers took advantage and hooked up on a 57 yard pass to get inside the red zone. The Eagle defense showed up again with their backs to the wall and forced a field goal to make the score 13-0.

A few drives later, the Eagles made the decision to attempt a fourth down conversion but failed on a run up the middle with running back L.A. Ramsby. Miraculously, the Mountaineer offense was forced to punt again but was able to force a quick Eagle three and out.

WVU started their next drive by throwing a 47 yard pass to the 27 yard line. The Eagle defense again turned on the pressure and forced them to a third field goal, 16-0 WVU. The first half came to a close with Upshaw throwing a deep ball that was picked off by WVU at their own 30. After failing to take advantage the Mountaineers were forced to punt and the Eagles ran out the half.

The second half couldn’t have started worse for the Eagles as Upshaw dropped back and threw an interception on a quick pass to the right side of the field. The Georgia Southern defense showed up again and was able to force a punt.

Unfortunately, things didn’t get better as Upshaw dropped back and threw his third interception of the game at the Eagle 28 yard line. With little room to work again the Mountaineers were finally able to make it into the end zone after a quick slant and an inside hand off, this made it 23-0 Mountaineers.

With about half of the third quarter remaining, the Georgia Southern offense began to show flashes of life. Upshaw ran for a 22 yard gain to get the Eagles on the Mountaineer side of the field. He followed it up with a first down pass and his first completion of the game. The drive ended after a failed fourth down attempt at the 30 yard line.

Things took a turn for the worst as the Eagle defense looked tired and sloppy as the Mountaineers moved down the field in big chunks and capped off the drive with fade into the end zone on a 4 play 70 yard drive. The Mountaineer lead was extended to 30-0 with 4:19 remaining in the third quarter.

The Eagles took the field back with a vengeance and worked the ball town to the 30 yard line of West Virginia. Upshaw was rocked in the back field and a fumble was forced but an offensive lineman was able to scoop up the ball. After two plays for no gain, the Eagles attempted a fourth down conversion but it resulted in Upshaw throwing into tight coverage for his fourth interception of the night.

With the moral seemingly sucked out of the stadium, the Mountaineers took advantage and again worked down the field in big chunks. In 2:21 WVU took the ball 85 yards on six plays to the end zone. The drive ended with a run up the middle for 15 yards and gave them a 37-0 lead.

At the start of the next drive coach Fritz decided to change things up. Redshirt junior Vegas Harley took the field at quarterback with Wesley Fields at running back. The Eagles were ready to get out of Morgantown and not suffer any critical losses that would hurt them down the road. Seven straight run plays drained nearly five minutes off the clock and the tone was set for the last half of the fourth quarter.

Things wound down for both teams as West Virginia took a long and slow drive down to their goal line where they were able to punch in a dive to the end zone to increase their lead to 44 points. The drive lasted for 10 plays and went 41 yards, eating up 5:42 of the clock. The game ended with a Mountaineer kneel down to kill the rest of the clock and taking the game, 44-0.

It wasn’t a worst-case scenario for the Eagles but it certainly looked that way. The offensive line struggled getting a push up front, there were several dropped passes, and a few mental errors from quarterback Favian Upshaw. The defense struggled with allowing big plays and at times allowed themselves to be blocked too easily.

With the negatives out of the way, it is important to stress that West Virginia has an extremely talented football team. The season is not lost for Georgia Southern after this performance and they have a lot of film to examine their mistakes and improve before Western Michigan arrives in Statesboro next Saturday.