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Option offense gives Eagles an edge against football's giants
The option offense is to Georgia Southern what the sling was to David.
With perfect execution, the Eagles can make it tough on Goliath — or in Saturday’s case, the fifth-ranked Georgia Bulldogs at Sanford Stadium.
“It really is a different brand of football in terms of the kinds of things defensive coaches are teaching their guys on a weekly basis in preparation for a more traditional offense,” GSU coach Jeff Monken said. “That gives a little bit of an advantage to teams that are running the option because it is so different.”
It’s a needed advantage because Football Championship Subdivision teams are at an obvious disadvantage when lining up against schools from the Football Bowl Subdivision.
FCS teams play with a maximum of 63 scholarships; FBS schools have 85.
And the Eagles, as strong as they have been while winning six national championships, have never beaten a full-fledged FBS team in 19 meetings.
GSU had a victory over Florida International in 2004 when FIU was in transition to join the FBS.
Southern, ranked sixth in the FCS this season, knows any chance of staying close to Georgia on Saturday will depend on matching the Bulldogs offensively.
“No matter what offense you run against a team like them, execution is going to be the thing,” GSU offensive coordinator Brent Davis said.
Last season, the Eagles executed the triple option well and produced 302 rushing yards against the top defensive team in the nation, Alabama.
For more than 42 minutes, GSU stayed within 10 points of the eventual champion Crimson Tide. Alabama’s margin of victory expanded to 24 (in the 45-21 win) when starting quarterback A.J. McCarron threw a touchdown pass with 44 seconds left. Fullback Dominique Swope had 153 yards against a Crimson Tide defense that had allowed 51.9 yards per game on the ground up to that point.
That’s how pesky the Eagles can be.
“We had some success last year against Alabama, but we hit some big plays on them,” Monken said. “But they also beat the heck out of us pretty good.”
Georgia’s defense won’t go into the game completely unaware. The Bulldogs have lined up against Georgia Tech’s triple option the last four years.
“Every team has great athletes, and we’re looking forward to this opportunity,” Eagles tight end Tyler Sumner said.
Tech coach Paul Johnson was the mastermind of the triple-option offense, blending some of the principles of the wishbone and run-and-shoot offenses of the 1980s.
Monken, who was an assistant under Johnson for 14 seasons, has tweaked the offense during his three years as head coach at Georgia Southern. The Eagles utilize the shotgun formation about 50 percent of the time in the run-oriented attack.
GSU leads the FCS in rushing offense, averaging 401.2 yards a game. The Eagles are scoring 37.6 points a game.
“The base of our offense is identical to Georgia Tech,” Monken said. “Most of us here (on the coaching staff) have a background with Paul Johnson and his offense, and we believe in it. It’s been a good offense for Georgia Southern, and certainly for us the last three years helped us to win a lot of football games.”
Although an offensive coach throughout his career, Monken understands the problems facing defenses.
Earlier this season Georgia Southern lost to The Citadel, another option team.
“We struggle with it (defensively),” Monken said. “We play against it all spring and all preseason and we still have a difficult time. … It’s not an easy offense to defend.”
Fee increases approved
The University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents today gave its approval, a required step, on two new student fees for Georgia Southern University students. The Regents approved a $25 per semester fee to expand Paulson Stadium and a $75 fee to help fund a potential move to the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). The Regents’ approval was required for any new student fee and followed a record turnout and approval by Georgia Southern students this past September.
The stadium expansion fee will go into effect beginning fall 2013 and will expire once the cost of the project has been fully paid. A date for construction has not been set.
In addition to the approval of the $25 stadium expansion fee, the Board of Regents also approved a $15 redirection of the current approved $154 athletic fee to be used to support construction of a Football Operations Center at the east end of Paulson Stadium. The new facility will provide coaches’ offices, team meeting rooms, locker rooms, rehabilitation rooms, weight room and the Georgia Southern Football Hall of Fame.
By Donald Heath, Savannah Morning News