Georgia Southern is bowl eligible. It’s hard to believe. Last year at this time, Georgia Southern was sitting at 0-7. Chad Lunsford had just lost his first game as head coach to Troy 38-16 after taking over from Tyson Summers. Morale among Eagle Nation had never been lower. It seems like a distant memory at this point.
If Chad Lunsford doesn’t get serious consideration for Coach of the Year, something went seriously wrong. Georgia Southern is playing like the past two season had never happened. It’s almost as if Lunsford had traveled back in time to December 23rd, 2015 and bottled the energy the program had after beating Bowling Green in the GoDaddy Bowl and fed it to the team. The Eagles now sit at 6-1 and 3-0 in the conference, not bad for a former position coach with no head coaching experience.
Now Georgia Southern heads into App State Hate Week. An enormous matchup looms Thursday Night with the Mountaineers, their eternal rival and Sun Belt apex predator. The biggest game in Paulson Stadium since at least 2015. Here’s what we learned this Saturday.
This team can overcome adversity
Some of you might read this and be like “Duh, they were 2-10 last year, of course they can overcome adversity” but that’s not what I’m talking about. The past two weeks Georgia Southern faced long road trips where not everything went their way. Against Texas State, they could not get anything going on offense. Against New Mexico State, it was the defense that struggled, falling behind early 14-3. But in both games, they dug deep, made the proper adjustments and figured out a way to win.
Road trips in college football are not like road trips in the pros. Weird things can happen, just ask Ohio State. These are 18-22 year old kids. A lot of the underclassmen had never left their home state as of two weeks ago, much less travel across the country to places like San Marcos and Las Cruces. This team grew up some in the past two games. It will pay dividends later in the season.
Logan Wright might be the next great Georgia Southern runningback
Georgia Southern played without it’s all-conference runningback Wesley Fields today, who was out with a groin injury. Redshirt freshman Logan Wright stepped up and got his first career start. He did not disappoint. Wright ran for 136 yards on 17 carries and scored his first two touchdowns as an Eagle. He averaged 8 yards a carry on the day.
The big 6-0 225 lb (he looks bigger than 225 tbh) bruising runningback absolutely punished the overmatched NM State defense. His performance was so special it prompted comparisons from Terry Harvin and Danny Reed to Georgia Southern greats Jermaine Austin and Joe Ross. He hit the hole hard and was shifty enough to dodge tackles. It beyond exciting to think about what this kid can do with +3 years of eligibility left
Good things happen when Wesley Kennedy III gets the football
I keep on harping on it but it bears repeating. Good things happen when Wesley Kennedy touches the ball. Kennedy had 146 all-purpose yards and 2 touchdowns against the Aggies. Kennedy touched the ball 18 times Saturday, a career high. After the Texas State game where he had only one carry (3 touches overall) this was good to see. His explosiveness pops off the screen. Kennedy wasn’t featured at all in the passing game, but Bob DeBesse found creative ways to get him the ball out of the backfield. Look for his roll to expand as we head into the tough part of the schedule.
Offensive Line is improving
I know New Mexico State’s defense isn’t great, but 389 yards rushing is 389 yards rushing. The most rushing yards Georgia Southern has produced in a game since Savannah State in 2016, Tyson Summers’s first game as head coach. That is hard to believe. The running game got everything it needed Saturday. The dive was there, the outside was there, Shai had room to run and time to pass. Not much more you could ask for.
If you set the Texas State game aside, the hogs up front have made huge strides since that first game vs. SC State. The success of the triple option offense starts up front. With each game this offense inches ever closer to 2014-2015 levels of production.
App State is mortal
While I was waiting for the 6pm EST kickoff to get here, I had the chance to catch a fair bit of the App State-Lousiana Lafayette game. For the first time all season the Mountaineers looked mortal. Zach Thomas did not have good game, going 10-20 through the air for 106 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT. App State was only 4-13 on 3rd down conversions and had to punt five times. It might not seem like much, but remember the Mountaineers had been absolutely demolishing their opponents this year. Their average margin of victory going into the ULL game was 51-8. They were only a few votes away from the top 25. I’ll take whatever glimmer of hope I can get.
Gone is star runningback Jalin Moore to a college career-ending ankle injury. In his place in Darrynton Evans, who had 183 yards and 1 TD Saturday. He’s going to be a handful. So will be App State’s defense, which had 4 sacks and 7 TFLs against the Cajuns. But aside from that everything else came out about even. If a rebuilding Louisiana squad can go to The Rock and give the Mountaineers a game, that bodes well for the Eagles Thursday night.
We’re going to need a loud and raucous Paulson Stadium to help us out. If President Nickel could find it in her heart to cancel Friday classes to get a few more students through the gates, that would be fantastic. We haven’t beaten the Mountaineers since 2014. They now lead the Deeper Than Hate series 19-13-1. We have to reverse the tide. What better time than now?