Heading into the home opener against Savannah State, the Georgia Southern Football team put on a show in the newly renovated stadium, scoring 12 touchdowns and grabbing its first win of the season, 83-9.
Paulson Stadium saw 23,121 fans pack themselves into their seats Saturday night, this ranked fourth in all time attendance at Georgia Southern during the regular season. Of all the fans, nearly 8,500 of them were students, which thrilled Head Coach Willie Fritz and the rest of his staff.
“People say that younger kids lack empathy. That’s not the situation here,” Fritz said.
The Eagles won the toss and decided to kick off to the Tigers. Following a three and out, sophomore quarterback Kevin Ellison jogged out on the field and took his spot behind center and hit senior receiver Zach Walker on a deep route to put the Eagles in the redzone. The first drive was capped off by a 14 yard run by sophomore running back Matthew Brieda.
The Tigers went for a fourth down conversion on their own 38 and failed. Ellison took advantage of the momentum and flicked his second and final pass of the game to junior receiver Kentrellis Showers for a 38 yard touchdown. On the ensuing Eagle drive, sophomore quarterback Favian Upshaw took the rains and after a couple big runs found the endzone on a five yard plunge.
Just when things didn’t look like they could get worse for the Tigers, junior Eagle linebacker Deion Stanley came down with his first interception of the season. This set up a 43 yard touchdown pass from Upshaw to Showers for both of their second touchdowns of the night.
A little over a minute later the Tigers were forced to punt from their own end zone and after a quick drive Brieda ran in his second touchdown of the night from one yard out. Junior kicker Alex Hanks missed his first extra point of the season, making the score 34-0.
Upshaw and the Eagle offense were able to get the ball back after another three and out by the Tigers. Upshaw took chunks of yards away from the Tigers on a drive that ended with an eight yard end-around by sophomore receiver Montay Crockett.
The last score of the half came from a one yard dive from senior running back Devin Scott, making it 55-0. Coach Fritz decided to call off the dogs at halftime and give some other guys a chance to prove themselves in a game situation.
Starting the second half at quarterback was senior Ezayi YouYoute. The first drive was mostly run plays including a 30 yard burst by senior running back Brandon Thomas and a one yard touchdown run by senior Ean Days.
The Tigers were finally able to put a drive together but missed a field goal from the 20 yard line. Days took the first handoff of the drive. After shaking a defender and stiff arming another, Days ignited the second half crowd with an 80 yard touchdown run. Days was taking his first carries since high school after transferring from Illinois and suffering hip injury last year.
A Tiger fumble returned possession to the Eagles. Senior running back Dennis Pritchard busted a 35 yard gain. Thomas ended the drive by running in 29 yards for the 10th touchdown of the night. But the Eagles still had more work to do. Youyoute was able to find the end zone on a 37 yard run to start the fourth quarter.
Against a mixture of the third and fourth string defense the Tiger offense finally managed to push the defense back far enough to manage a field goal. Pritchard retaliated on the next drive with a five yard touchdown of his own. In an act of desperation the Tigers threw up a 31 yard touchdown for the final score of the contest, 83-9 Eagles.
With such a lopsided defeat the Eagles had plenty of broken records, personal bests and career firsts. They tied the school record with 12 touchdowns in a game. Five different running backs and all three quarterbacks registered at least one rushing score. The Eagles totaled for 695 yards, with 599 of those coming on the ground. Both Thomas and Days ended the day over 100 yards with 117 and 112 respectively.
Georgia Southern now sets their sights on the big in-state game this Saturday against Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets are coming off of a 38-21 win over Tulane last weekend. The game is scheduled for kickoff at noon in Atlanta and will be broadcasted on the ACC Network.