The Chris Hatcher era begins in earnest Saturday night for the Georgia Southern Eagles.
Hatcher and his Eagles football team will play host to West Georgia in the season opener for GSU at Paulson Stadium.
Since his hire in January, he has returned some of GSU’s traditions — riding to games in the beat-up yellow school buses and gray facemasks.
But what most Eagles and their fans are waiting for is a return to winning. Southern lost its last five games of the 2006 season under Brian VanGorder, finishing with a 3-8 record. That’s the worst mark since the program was restarted in 1981.
“Last year wasn’t a good showing,” said senior Jayson Foster. “This year, we’ve got to rededicate ourselves and make the plays this year.”
Hatcher, a former star quarterback and later coach at Valdosta State, believes West Georgia will enter Saturday night’s game with an advantage — they’ve already played. The Wolves beat Clark-Atlanta 23-11 in their opener.
“That’s a huge advantage,” Hatcher said. “A team improves more from game one to game two than at any other juncture in the season. If it was up to me, we would always play the first week of the season.”
The Wolves, a Division II team from the Gulf South Conference, last visited Paulson Stadium in 1994, when they were the Braves. They beat GSU 15-14 in the Eagles’ opener.
West Georgia has changed its nickname from its last visit to Statesboro and changed both coordinators from a year ago. Hatcher coached against West Georgia — VSU and West Georgia are in Division II’s Gulf South Conference — last season, but expects the unexpected this weekend.
“They got new coordinators, so they probably changed their schemes up,” he said. “They know what we’re going to do, because we’re going to do the same thing we’ve done against them for seven years.”
Hatcher was 6-1 at Valdosta State against West Georgia and his Georgia Southern version of the “Hatch Attack” will be unveiled Saturday, with receiver turned quarterback turned receiver again Foster likely starting at quarterback.
The “Hatch Attack” is less an offensive philosophy — Hatcher’s team were far more pass-oriented than GSU’s traditional triple option run-based offense, which was scrapped last season — than a mindset. And a marketing campaign.
“It’s nothing out of the ordinary,” Hatcher said. “The Hatch Attack is nothing different than from what everybody else in the country runs. That was just a catchy phrase we used to market Valdosta State football. All we try to do is score more one point than our opponent does. They say the Hatch Attack is an offense, and it’s not an offense. It’s a misnomer.
“The Hatch Attack is you get guys to play to the best of their ability and play hard every snap. And if you do that, no matter what the scoreboard reads, you’ve been successful.”
West Georgia at Georgia Southern
Time: 6 p.m.
Where: Paulson Stadium, Statesboro
Series: Tied, 1-1
Records: West Georgia 1-0; Georgia Southern 0-0
Last meeting: 1994 - West Georgia won, 15-14
Coaches: West Georgia - Mike Ledford (16-36 career, 16-36 at West Georgia); Georgia Southern - Chris Hatcher (76-12 career, 0-0 at Georgia Southern)