Arkansas State Red Wolves (1-2, 0-0) vs Georgia Southern Eagles (0-3, 0-0)
Time: 7:00 PM CST, Wednesday October 4, 2017
Where: Paulson Stadium, Statesboro, GA
Betting Line: Arkansas State -7
Over a month into Georgia Southern’s football season, they will finally play their home opener Wednesday night against Arkansas State. Due to Hurricane Irma, the original home opener against UNH on September 9th was moved to Birmingham (we all know what happened). Wednesday night #FunBelt action is still something Eagles fans are getting used to. But a home opener in October?
Fans, already restless as it is, are not thrilled at the circumstances. Remember this is a fan base that is already starved of home games from last year. There was a month road stretch in the middle of the schedule last year. Having several years in a row of 5 or less home games per year is not their favorite thing in the world it’s safe to say.
For those that have not been to Statesboro on gameday, the tailgating scene is part of the experience itself. Georgia Southern packs SEC level intensity into a medium-sized package (although we’re becoming less and less “medium” by the day). SEC level expectations and SEC level tailgating, who cares if we have 10% of their money? Just don’t tell Tom Kleinlein that.
So when Eagles fans are starved of that atmosphere in the “Prettiest Little Stadium in America” as Erk Russell called it, it only compounds the misery. Is there reason for optimism Wednesday night for the Eagles?
The Red Wolves
Arkansas State enters the game 1-2 and Georgia Southern 0-3. Eagles fans have tried to forget last year’s epic collapse at this time last year vs. Arkansas State, Where the Red Wolves overcame 5 turnovers to down the Eagles 27-26.
Arkansas State fell short in an upset bid at Nebraska, defeated FCS Arkansas-Pine Bluff and hung in there with SMU until junior QB Justice Hansen was injured. SMU won 44-21.
Hansen was able to return to practice on Saturday though limited from contact. Logan Bonner could step in if Hansen isn’t ready. The rest of the team appears healthy heading into the game on ESPN2.
Arkansas State is 28th in the country in total offense. Justice Hansen, who threw the game-winning TD pass with 0:09 left against the Eagles last year, has 68.8% completion percentage with 10 TDs and 3 INTs so far this season. Who else should we watch out for?
Warren Wand 35 carries 215 yards 6.1 YPC 2 TDs
Jamal Jones 13 carries 59 yards 4.5 YPC
Christian Booker 14 catches 190 yards 13.6 YPC 2 TD
Blake Mack 13 catches 164 yards 12.6 YPC 3 TD
Omar Bayless 14 catches 164 yards 11.7 YPC 2 TD
Kendrick Edwards 15 catches 155 yards 10.3 YPC 1 TD
Justin McInnis 7 catches 128 yards 18.3 YPC (TD) 1 TD
Chris Murray 13 catches 124 yards 9.5 YPC (TD) 1 TD
Dijon Paschal 7 catches 52 yards 7.4 YPC
As you can see, Hansen likes to spread the ball around. The Red Wolves are well coached and talented. They were trading SMU point for point until Hansen went down. The Red Wolves should put up yards and points on hump day.
Keys to an Eagle Victory:
Blocking, blocking, blocking
Fans can scream at the offensive coordinator or say “that’s not the triple option” all they want but the fact is, if the line isn’t blocking, the scheme doesn’t matter much. Scheme just tells the QB which direction he ought to run for his life.
For such an experienced group, and supposedly better coached and conditioned group at that, results have been disappointing so far this season. The offense is scoring 12 points a game. If the OL and other blockers can’t buy time and space for Werts & Co. then it will continue to look ugly.
Limit turnovers and penalties
Giving Arkansas State’s offense extra possessions and extra yards is not a good idea. Hansen is a good QB with plenty of options around him. Georgia Southern gave away three fumbles vs. Indiana.
Build off of the 2nd half of the Indiana game
What if I were to tell you that not everything looked terrible in the shellacking vs. Indiana?
Hold on, just hear me out.
Shai Werts threw for 2 TDs, 129 yards and added another 39 yards with his feet. Not exactly Tracy Ham level numbers, but much better than the Auburn and UNH games.
LA Ramsby had 108 yards on 18 carries. D’Ondre Glenn had somewhat of a breakout game with 3 catches for 98 yards and a 63-yard TD catch.
This is stuff to build on if you are a glass half-full type of person.
Drown out the haters
Lastly, it is easy for 18-22 year olds to get distracted, especially on Georgia Southern’s campus. Lord knows I’ve been there. Kids today are surrounded by social media 24/7 so I am sure they are aware that the fans are a bit salty. I’ve even heard rumors of a student walkout Wednesday night if the game gets ugly.
None of this matters though Wednesday night. This Eagle team has been through the worst possible month you could imagine. They have had two bye weeks sandwiched around the Indiana game, so they’ve had plenty of time to look at tape and fix what is wrong.
Arkansas State is the perfect barometer in my opinion. They are in the upper-class of SBC football. They are a measuring stick much in the same way Appalachian State has always been. They are the big dog on the Western side of the conference.
We will see if this extra time off has allowed Tyson Summers and his players to circle the wagons and come out swinging against the Red Wolves on ESPN2. If they don’t who knows what may happen?