Good news, you were made to believe, arrived two weeks ago when Georgia Southern announced starting quarterback Kevin Ellison would miss the first two games of the season because of academic issues. I assumed the point spread would careen again, but it’s barely moved. What started at 31.5 points and dipped to 18.5 is only a point or two higher than that now.
I’m not saying this is why, but this is nevertheless reality: Ellison’s
backup understudy teammate, Favian Upshaw, is no joke. The Eagles really, really like him, and there’s good reason. Actually, there are good reasons: They know what they’re capable of with Upshaw in the game … because Upshaw played a lot last season.
Ellison stirred the drink, for certain, but Upshaw would keep the spirits flowing when he was in the game.
“There was never a situation where everyone said, ‘Oh, man, now we’ve got to play our backup,’ ” Ruse said. “Favian’s been out there doing it with the first team. In his teammates’ mind, he’s always been a starter because we’ve always treated both of them as starters.”
Upshaw played in 11 of 12 games last season, but when he played mattered more. In every game, he played in the first quarter or early in the second quarter. It was never planned as a way to get Upshaw ready for a situation like this. It was designed to help the offense, either when Ellison needed time to shake something off or when Ruse wanted to get one of his best players into the game.
Upshaw was also a track and basketball star in high school and was ranked No. 1 in the state and No. 25 nationally in the high jump.
“We played the guy because he’s a good football player and a heck of a quarterback,” Ruse said. “We needed him to play. There haven’t been too many times over 28 years I’ve been in a situation like this where I feel comfortable like that. I seriously look at the two as my No. 1. It wasn’t any plan or any vision I had to have a guy ready. He’s a heck of a player who needs to play and deserves to play.”