Q&A with Ben Moore of PantherTalk.com

October 21, 2011 · By · Filed Under Football 

 

Ben Moore, Co-Founder and Editor of PantherTalk.com, reached out to me for a question and answer piece for their “Know your Opponent” series. We asked each other a few questions about each respective program leading up to tomorrows game in the Georgia Dome.

Ben: What are Jag fans expecting as they enter the Georgia Dome on Saturday?

Thunderjags: I think the fans expect a good football atmosphere and an exciting game. I think most fans come into this game expecting a win because the Jags won last season, albeit in a high scoring shootout. The fans have developed high expectations for the program and they expect them to beat teams that are in the same classification (or lower if you look back to previous opponents), which they have done 21 out of 23 times so far.

But there are many that understand that this is a homecoming game for the Panthers and a renewal of an old basketball rivalry between two schools who just added football. While GSU has had a rough season so far, what better way to turn the rest of the season around than a win on Saturday.

Ben: South Alabama has seemed to find their identity as a run first football team as CJ Bennett has struggled to throw the ball this year. Do you expect to see USA establish the run Saturday?

TG: The Jags rely on establishing the running game. Kendall Houston is a punishing runner that just isn’t easy to bring down and Baker has great break away speed while being very physical as well. I expect them to establish the run, but to what degree will determine how the game goes. If Houston and Baker get their average of about 5 yards per rush, then that’s a huge advantage and takes pressure off of Bennett and the receivers.

Ben: How many South Alabama fans do you expect to make the trip to Atlanta Saturday?

TG: I hope a lot. When South Alabama traveled to Beaumont, TX for their first true road game they had probably around 500 there. Then probably a similar number, 500 or so, at UC-Davis the week after. This year in Raleigh, NC there were probably 750-900 fans there. With Atlanta being much closer than any of the previous road games, I would hope to see at least 1,200 or more. Obviously the administration and coaches would be absolutely thrilled to see 2,000 or more fans make the trip.

Thunderjags: How is GSU trying to set itself apart from the other schools in the state such as UGA and Ga Tech?

Ben: We’ve had trouble setting ourselves apart and our fan base still maintains loyalties to Tech and UGA.  We’ve seen a noticeable decline in attendance when both Tech and UGA are at home.  Our athletic administration has moved game times, given students more access to the entire Georgia Dome and allowed them all sit in the lower level (overflow was in the club level).  It will be a consistent challenge winning the affinity battle until we graduate classes who entered and exited school with football.  Atlanta is a very front running town and not winning home games has hurt us as well. Right now Tech is ranked #22 and UGA has won 5 straight.  Entering the Dome at 1-5 is tough for any Panther fan to stomach right now.

Thunderjags: Has playing three quarterbacks with differing strengths limited the progression of the offense so far this season?

Ben: I think the QB rotation (which started when 2010 starter Drew Little was suspended, then Kelton Hill had his legal issues that were resolved during Fall practice) has played a huge part but we’ve had terrible luck this season with injuries.  We’ve had our starting offensive line healthy for one game this season and we ran for 244 yards on 45 carries vs. SC State.  One of our top offensive threats WR/KR Albert Wilson pulled his hamstring vs. Jacksonville State and is just now getting back to full speed.  Our fan base has their opinions on who should be starting but until Drew Little recovers from his sternum injury, the job should be Kelton Hill’s to lose.  He is very good on designed runs but has yet to show any consistency throwing the ball with accuracy.  Both he and Schlechter struggled mightily vs. SC State going a combined 6/19 on the day.  I expect shorter routes and a steady dose of the running game to limit Hill’s passing attempts on Saturday.

I’m sure South Alabama fans can relate with Georgia State’s struggle with Georgia Tech and Georgia fans. USA has to compete with Alabama and Auburn television time. However our advantage is that we are not nearly as close to AU and UA as GSU us to Tech and UGA.

I lived in north Alabama when UAB began their football program and I saw how difficult their struggle was against both of those teams. Alabama and Auburn had such a long history in Birmingham with the Iron Bowl. Plus Alabama played many home games at Legion Field before moving all of their home games to Bryant Denny. In addition, it’s a relatively short drive from Birmingham to Tuscaloosa.

The Jags struggled trying to figure out game times before the first season until they decided that they cannot schedule around Alabama and Auburn every week. They picked 4pm at their kickoff time on Saturdays barring television coverage and it has worked well for the Jags. When Alabama and Auburn play early, some fans will watch it in the lot while tailgating. Others may stay home but attendance has persisted to be good. If either or both kick off late, they still come out but many leave at or around halftime to make the drive back home or to a nearby bar to watch the game. But they are still supporting the program.

You can see Ben’s post in their “Know Your Opponent” series here and look around at more of Ben’s great work at PantherTalk.com. Special thanks to Ben Moore for his time.

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