For the first time in their annual five year history, the 2019 Cure Bowl will be held at Exploria Stadium in Orlando, FL. What makes this stadium different from the others, is it’s a soccer stadium. It’ll be interesting how the players react to facing off here as it offers a more personal experience with the fans being seated closer than in a typical football stadium.
Speaking of firsts, this is the first time in 23 years that the Flames and the Eagles are matching up against each other, the last being November 16th 1996.
While this is the Flames first bowl game, it isn’t the Eagles first dance. In the team history, they’ve won 6 FSC National Titles and 11 Conference Titles. This current team has been to a bowl game before said by kicker Tyler Bass, “ I think yeah, being to a bowl game before definitely gives you experience that’s you know definitely necessary but in the day we’re locked in we only came here for one reason and that’s to win but also to compete.” Bass then eluded to, that even though we came here to win, they also have to enjoy the week and have fun.
The FBC Mortgage Cure Bowl sponsors an important movement in raising awareness for breast cancer, a movement that is very personal for inside linebacker Rashad Byrd. He was asked about the experience of the week leading up to the Cure Bowl and the game itself. “Awesome opportunity for what this bowl really stands for. For me personally, I know it means a lot but it’s really a lot of fun. You have Universal here and a lot of other activities you can do as well. It was just a great opportunity for us to showcase our abilities but to also raise awareness for a lot of other things.”
This matchup features two quarterbacks who boast impressive TD:INT ratios. Liberty’s Stephen Calvert also known as “Buckshot”, went 295 pass attempts before throwing an interception. Meanwhile, Georgia Southern’s, Shai Werts currently holds the longest active streak without throwing an interception at 226 passing attempts in counting. When asked about his success, Werts had this to say, “It’s not just me. There’s multiple options that we have in the backfield. There are so many options. So you can’t really just go to sleep on me and when you do, I have to make you pay for it. So just preparing and taking what the defense gives me, that’s what it comes down to.”
This game signals the end of a journey for both quarterbacks as it’s their last college game. “I never got a chance to come home and play a game. So it’s an honor, a blessing to be out here. I got a lot of family members coming so, they haven’t seen me play since probably little league or high school”, what Calvert said about playing his final college game back in his home state.
Alongside Calvert, is his partner in crime, 6’4 wide receiver Antonio Gandy-Golden, who many believe has the ability to play at the next level in the NFL. Namely his Coach Hugh Freeze, who currently has 9 of the receiver’s he’s coached in the NFL.
The 2019 FBC Mortgage Cure Bowl is an important game for both teams. Each team, coach and players spoke of how they are locked in and ready to face off against each other. However, there’s a balance between staying locked in and enjoying the moment. This is something Coach Freeze spoke extensively about. “I keep records on everything.” Coach Freeze went on to say, “At that point in my career, I’m driven and man we got to win this New Year’s Six game and what it would lead to, how it would benefit me as a coach, and you know all those crazy things that mission and drive can make you do if it’s not in check and it didn’t work out at all, we played awful.” Coach Freeze mentions he keeps those records to learn from his mistakes and to learn what does and doesn’t work. He indicated, knowing that he sees his players walking around, being talkative, enjoying themselves is just as important as being locked in for their game this Saturday.
Georgia Southern’s placekicker Tyler Bass was asked about his game winning heroics last year responding with, “It’s been crazy. A lot of people know who I am now, but at the end of the day, I know that kick wasn’t just me. It took the team, a great long snapper, holder and O-line. Thanks to Shai [Werts] for getting me in position. It definitely gives me confidence knowing that I got such teammates behind me and a coaching staff that trusts me. They made my job easy.” Bass also spoke about the opportunity to raise awareness for breast cancer, “This is a great opportunity to raise awareness for cancer. At the end of the day, this bowl game is just a testament to how well we played this season and we’re just looking to enjoy it, but also have a balance between play and also working.”
Liberty and Georgia Southern also feature game wreckers of their own, for Liberty it’s in the form of defensive end Jessie Lemonier who has amassed 72 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, and 8.5 sacks this season. Liberty’s Calvert will certainly be tested on Saturday as the Eagles will be trotting out their “No-Fly Zone” cornerback tandem of Monquavion Brinson and Kindle Vildor. The two senior cornerbacks have a combined 14 career interceptions, making them one of the top duos in the country at their position. When asked playing opposite Gandy-Golden in the bowl game, Vildor responded, “We actually haven’t spoke yet personally, like face to face. But we will probably talk when we go to the amusement part and stuff like that. It is going to be a great opportunity for the both of us to go out and compete. Good on good out there and just show everybody what we can do out there.” Vildor also said about Liberty’s passing attack, “We are just going to go out there and just play how we know we can play and play our fundamental football each and every snap out there.” Look out for the clash between the Liberty Flames and the Georgia Southern Eagles Saturday at the 2019 FBS Mortgage Cure Bowl.
The 2019 FBC Cure Bowl anticipates to be a high scoring, high octane game, with both teams featuring offenses that have been accustomed to putting up points. In 10 of their 12 games this season, Georgia Southern has scored at least 24+ points. On the other side, in their last 7 games, Liberty has scored at least 20+ points, two of which they scored over 50.
Though both offenses are potent, there is a stark contrast between them with Liberty focusing on their air attack featuring QB Calvert and WR Gandy Golden. On the flip side, Georgia Southern rely heavily on their rushing attack to open up the pass game. Coach Lunsford spoke about his team’s game plan of establishing the run, to open up their efficient passing game, and stopping the run.
What comes to mind when thinking of the Georgia Southern Eagles is resiliency something that Coach Lunsford preaches to his players a concept he spoke about in his opening statement. “One thing I would like to say is to talk a little bit about Georgia Southern football. College football is a business, but at Georgia Southern, it is a family business and that is something that we don’t take lightly. We believe in our identity. We’re blue collar. We are disciplined. We are tough. I tell our guys all the time that does not take talent to be that. Our guys have exemplified that all year. We always talk about being the Georgia Southern man. We have our own core values. We have the things that we live by and we do not go away from that. That is what has made this season very special for us in that we have had a lot of adversity, a lot of adversity that is not normal. All football seasons and all football teams face adversity every year, but we have had an abnormal amount of it. Just to see our guys be so resilient all year, and continue to work and get after it and get themselves in position to go finish off the season with a bowl championship, I can’t say enough about them or our coaches and our whole staff for doing that.”