The few minutes after The Citadel's 13-6 loss at Georgia Southern on Nov. 21, 2009, were fateful for both programs.
After his team wrapped up a 4-7 season, Bulldogs coach Kevin Higgins all but announced that he was giving up his pass-happy spread offense for the triple option, saying, "We're going to look philosophically at what we're doing, particularly on offense."
Moments later, GSU revealed that it had fired coach Chris Hatcher, doing away with his "Hatch Attack" passing scheme for a return to the triple- option flexbone that had carried the Eagles to six FCS national titles.
Two years later, fourth-ranked Georgia Southern is 17-6 since making the switch to coach Jeff Monken, including a 7-1 record this year, 5-1 in the Southern Conference. The Citadel is 7-12 since then, with a 4-4 overall mark and a 2-4 SoCon slate this season.
The Bulldogs will get to measure themselves against GSU again when the teams meet today in Statesboro, a place The Citadel has not won since 2003.
It's easy to point to Eagles quarterback Jaybo Shaw, a 6-0, 200-pound senior, as the main difference in the development of the two offenses. While Higgins and staff were teaching Citadel freshman QB Ben Dupree the basics of the flexbone last year, Monken was able to slide in Shaw, a transfer whom he had coached in the same offense at Georgia Tech.
Shaw, older brother of South Carolina QB Connor Shaw, has run the flexbone to great effect this season, leading GSU to 41.1 points and 340 rushing yards per game. Six different Eagles run for at least 33 yards per game, led by fullback Robert Brown at 90.6.
Shaw also has hit 39 of 73 passes for 817 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions to rank second in the SoCon in passing efficiency. He missed most of last year's 20-0 win over The Citadel after getting hurt early.
The Citadel nearly matches GSU in rushing yards (304 per game), but is way behind in passing efficiency. With sophomore Dupree and freshman Aaron Miller sharing snaps, the Bulldogs are last in the league in passing efficiency, averaging just 37.5 yards per game with one TD and five interceptions.
"When you have an experienced guy calling the shots, it makes such a difference," Higgins said. "In this case, it was even more important because Shaw came from a program at Georgia Tech where he was running the exact same deal. He's surrounded with good athletes at Georgia Southern, and he was able to take that thing and get it going."
GSU is coming off a 24-17 loss at Appalachian State, and with Wofford and Alabama left needs one more Division I win to meet the 7-win standard for the FCS playoffs.
--The Citadel got a verbal commitment this week from quarterback Tyler White, a 5-11, 183-pounder from St. Pius High School near Atlanta. White has rushed for 1,907 yards and 21 touchdowns on 272 carries in his career, an average of 7.0 yards per carry.