CLICK ON THE VIDEO LINK TO SEE COVERAGE OF THE ANNUAL SPRING GAME AND LITTLE EAGLES CAMP AT PAULSON STADIUM IN STATESBORO SATURDAY.
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Blue Holds Off White for 14-12 Spring Game Victory
Eagles receive 2012 Southern Conference Championship rings
STATESBORO, Ga. – The setting for the scene today was the mid-1980s and the early years of Georgia Southern Football as filming began at Paulson Stadium for the movie on legendary Coach Erk Russell. At the same time, a Blue-White Spring Game acted out with the defense holding off the offense for a 14-12 victory. More than 3,700 fans came out to enjoy the picture-perfect weather, watch the scrimmage and have a chance to appear in the movie's crowd shots.
Today's scrimmage, though, was no Hollywood production. Coach Jeff Monken expects his Eagles to play with grit, determination and tremendous effort. There has been limited time to “rehearse” this spring and while there were no stunt doubles at Paulson Stadium, there were many faces on the field unfamiliar to fans. The faces, however, are familiar on the practice fields near the banks of Beautiful Eagle Creek. These men, who may not be recognized without a program, are taking reps to make the 2013 edition of the Eagles the best possible.
Unable to do a traditional spring game with a draft for Blue and White teams due to injuries, the Eagles ran nearly 70 plays with offense (white uniforms) versus defense (blue uniforms). Georgia Southern has not only had to make adjustments to its lineup, but also in how to best utilize formations to accomplish what is needed for practice without the chance of losing more players to injury. Monken acknowledged that the changes would allow the teaching and learning process to continue and get the Eagles back and ready for the preseason.
“We need to get healthy,” Monken said about his team and how the coaching staff has adapted spring practice and formations from the standpoint of injuries. “(We have) only two quarterbacks, and we were down to one B-Back at some points in the spring and practiced this past Tuesday with only two offensive guards. You take a pounding, because that is our offense, you want to run the ball and knock people off the ball, and play a real physical-style offense. It doesn't mean when we get in the gun that it isn't going to be, but the backs don't take the shots, the quarterbacks aren't up there on the line of scrimmage, like they are on the under center stuff and it is easier for us to protect them.”
The coaching staff used a scoring system used by Defensive Coordinator Jack Curtis and Linebackers Coach Kevin Corless at Arkansas State. Points for offense followed tradition with six points, one point for a PAT and three points for field goals. Additional points could be earned with an explosive play or with three consecutive first downs. Defense was able amass points with scoring plays as well as with efforts forcing three-and-out situations, blocking kicks, getting turnovers or when the offense turned the ball over on downs.
“This is the third time we have had the opportunity to that this spring and I think those opportunities have been positive for us – it's more of a game-like atmosphere, and any time we can simulate a game, I think that helps our guys. It certainly gives us a better chance to evaluate them.”
William Banks scored the game's only touchdown to tie the game at 12 all. Ellison set up the touchdown with a 22-yard rush that also earned the White squad, trailing 3-12 prior to the start of that series, a point. Banks scored on the PAT to knot the game. The Defense picked up the final two points and the win by forcing the Offense to turn the ball over on downs on what would be the last drive of the game.
Early reviews gave the defense three stars as it was action-packed early getting a turnover on downs for a two-point lead at the 10-minute mark in the first quarter. Offense cut into the lead with a point for getting three consecutive first downs, but Defense benefitted when defensive back Deion Stanley forced a fumble to put three points on the board for the Blue. A turnover on downs added two more points for the defense for a 7-1 lead.
On the next two series, the defense kept the offense from getting a first down and increased its lead to 9-1. Ellison had another award-winning effort with a 33-yard rush and earned the White team a point for the explosive play and then another with three consecutive first downs. A setback with a turnover on downs and three-and-out series extended the Blue lead to 12-3.
Cue the comeback music as Ellison directed his unit inside the red zone to set up Banks for the touchdown and PAT. He finished the afternoon with 76 yards rushing on eight carries and with two completions on four passing attempts for a total of 12 yards. Vegas Harley was 6-11 for 14 yards and ran for 25 yards on six carries. Banks ran 10 times for 44 yards and Irving Huggins got a lot of work on 9-36 rushing.
Edwin Jackson lead the Blue team with 10 tackles with Kyle Oehlbeck picking up eight, including a blockbuster hit on a punt return.
“We are going to have to count on a lot of guys who got reps this spring. There are a lot of guys who got a lot of reps – guys we weren't necessarily counting on. Hopefully they have improved enough that maybe they can find their way into the mix or if we have injury problems in the fall, they are guys we can call on.”
BACK ON THE FLAGPOLE
In trying to be as authentic as reasonably possible in the filming of the crowd scenes at Paulson Stadium, Georgia Southern's six national championship flags were not flown for the Blue-White game and only the American flag was present. After the crew finished filming Saturday evening, the flags were restored for the Eagle Football Alumni Association Reverse Raffle and Auction event.
Honorary captains for the White (offense) team were Isaac Ferrell, Rich McGrath, Scott Shelton and Anthony Tippons. The Blue (defense) team was joined by honorary captains Larry Beard, Danny Britt and Nick Davis.
SENIORS RING IT IN PRIOR TO KICKOFF
Eighteen of Georgia Southern's seniors who were on the 2012 Southern Conference team last fall received their rings prior to today's game. The ring features the individual player's name on one side with the Georgia Southern logo and “GATA” on one side and the phrase “One More Time” and the NCAA championship logo on the other. A large trophy with a marquis-cut stone at the top and “SoCon” on the base sits in the center of a raised football shape set with sparkling stones of various sizes. Five clear stones are on each side, the total representing Georgia Southern's 10th Southern Conference championship. Strong capital letters with “Georgia ” and “Southern” at the top and bottom is flanked by “SoCon” and “Champs” on the right and left.
TWO MORE PRACTICES
While the spring game usually signals the end of spring practice, Georgia Southern has available two more dates for practices and will use them. The Eagles will practice Tuesday and Thursday of next week to reach the 15 allowed total.