ESPN2’s first Wednesday night #FunBelt matchup of 2017 between Georgia Southern and Arkansas State did not disappoint. Arkansas State downed the Eagles 43-26 in front of a paltry 13,781 fans for the de facto home opener at Paulson Stadium. Both teams combined for 874 yards of offense and 68 points.
It’s a Wednesday, I don’t blame Eagles fans. Hurricane Irma robbed them of a real home opener. Middle of the week showcases are just the way the Sun Belt and MAC operate. I like it, as long as it’s not my team that has to sacrifice a Saturday home game.
The reason whole reason that the Sun Belt and MAC play in the middle of the week is for TV and TV alone. This game provided compelling counter-programming against playoff baseball.
If I were to tell an Eagles fan before kickoff that Georgia Southern would out-gain Arkansas State 493 to 381, have the ball for 18 minutes longer, five more first downs, and a +1 turnover margin; that fan would have been ecstatic. They would have assumed that the Eagles had won. Well…that was not the case.
Though still not close to what I would consider good, Georgia Southern’s offense looked almost acceptable through certain stretches. Shai Werts had 112 yards on 29 carries and was 10/18 for 160 yards through the air. He’s getting better but is still prone to a freshman bonehead play now and then.
“Lies, damned lies, and statistics.” as Mark Twain once said, helps explain the statistical imbalance. Arkansas State was sloppy, yet effective. But most importantly they were efficient. The Red Wolves could score quickly, and Georgia Southern could not.
His deep ball to Obe Fortune was a thing of beauty. His arm is more than adequate. He misses on some throws, but QBs need throws to get into a rhythm. Werts hasn’t looked comfortable making reads on option plays. But he did look comfortable at times scrambling out of the pocket, buying time, keeping his eyes down field.
Perhaps, the most telling part of the game was when Werts started to throw the ball more in the 2nd half, he started to play better. Maybe a spread offense would be more his style? It would help get defenders away from the line of scrimmage for the run game.
After a couple early stops, Georgia Southern’s defense could not get Justice Hansen and his array of weapons off the field.
Hansen had the strange stat line of 12-26 for 316 yards, 4 TDs, 4 INTs. But that stat line does not tell a lie, sorry Mark (I know it’s Samuel, don’t email me). He was all over the place. At times dangerous and efficient, other times sloppy and turnover prone. But he won the game and that’s what matters.
Chris Murray had a big game for the Red Wolves, hauling in 5 catches for 188 yards and 2 TDs. Warren Wand didn’t get a ton of carries at 11 but was effective at 5.5 yards a carry, he had 2 TDs of his own.
Georgia Southern however, had four guys with at least 60 yards rushing, Werts, Ramsby, Fields, and Monteo Garrett. The biggest question mark to me of the four was Garrett, who scored on a breathtaking 74 yard TD run in 2nd quarter, yet got only one more carry the rest of the game!?
Monteo Garrett was a QB that was moved to RB in the offseason. He has made some highlight runs in practice, but has yet to get significant touches in this offense. He has 5 carries for 117 yards! *not a misprint*
He’s performing every time he gets the ball. Why was a guy that fast moved away from QB in the first place? He has talent, feed him the rock more.
That was not the only personnel decision that came under questioning.
Bottom line is that Georgia Southern is now 0-4 for the first time since 1941. It has never happened in the modern era. I don’t know if this is rock-bottom, but is certainly the worst the Eagles have ever been…so far. It certainly can get worse too.
Did the Eagles turn the corner? Perhaps. The certainly looked better. But this is team that has played twice in the past 26 days. They were playing at home. They should have looked better. Compared against how awful they have been to this point, it was a slight improvement.
Still too many turnovers. Still inconsistent blocking. Still a defense that gives up big plays. Still too many penalties. Fundamentals are on the coaching staff. This team looks unrecognizable compared to what it was in the 2015 GoDaddy Bowl.
Was it enough improvement to cost Tyson Summers his job? Hard to say at this point. President Jaimie Hebert did not seem concerned in his recent interview with the George-Anne. My best guess for what might happen are the following
three four scenarios:
- Homecoming embarrassment vs. New Mexico State – The Aggies are good y’all. Tyler Rogers is a competent QB and Larry Rose III might be the best RB in the SBC. If they sufficiently embarrass the Eagles in front of full house for homecoming, it won’t be pretty trust me.
- 7th loss – 7th loss means no bowl game. 6 wins seem very far away when you’re still working on your first.
- App State embarrassment – In 2004 Georgia Southern beat App State so bad (54-7) it fixed their program, they rattled off 3 FCS titles from ’05-’07. They returned the favor in 2009 by beating the Eagles 52-16 in Boone. Chris Hatcher was let go after the game, Jeff Monken was hired, the rest is history. Could this be part three?
- Losing three straight to Georgia State – This possibility is staring at us like the comet in Deep Impact. Georgia State would probably beat Georgia Southern if they played today.
Eagle nation is verging on insanity as it is, if it got to option four…..well let’s just hope it doesn’t get to option four. This might already be a lost season. Even if you pull the band-aid off now and make say Lunsford or Cook or Bodine the interim, there’s a narrow path to six wins. I don’t want to even think about recruiting.
Going 6-2 over the next 8 would need a turnaround of epic proportions and possibly a bit of divine intervention. I would be among the first to welcome it. But I’m afraid it is not in the cards.
2017 Sun Belt Conference Standings
|New Mexico State||0-1||2-3|