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Eagles hope to avoid letdown at Western Carolina

Eagles hope to avoid letdown at Western Carolina

Eagles hope to avoid letdown at Western Carolina

    It’s the perfect trap game.
    Georgia Southern is coming off its biggest win in several years, and is facing an opponent mired in a four game losing streak, one which can’t seem to put together four complete quarters.
     The Eagles (5-4, 3-3) will be looking to avoid the upset today at 3 p.m. when they play at Western Carolina (2-7, 1-5 in the picturesque mountain town of Cullowhee, N.C.
    The Southern Conference game will bring together a once proud program that is rebounding from three dismal seasons against one mired in mediocrity.
    A victory will assure the Eagles of a winning season.
    Georgia Southern is coming off a 21-14 overtime win over previously unbeaten and No. 1 ranked Appalachian State. Western, meanwhile, let a 17-14 halftime lead slip away in a 31-17 loss at Furman.
    “Let’s call it what it is:  a big win,” Monken said of the win over the Mountaineers. “It was one we needed to get things going in the right direction — a great confidence boost.
    “The important thing is we get refocused,” Monken said. “Western Carolina is a tough team, and we have plenty of challenges going up there.”
     Georgia Southern leads the series, 20-2, and two yeas ago the Eagles had to pull of one of their greatest comebacks to earn a 38-31 overtime win after trailing 31-3 going into the fourth period.
    “We’re going to need the same effort we had against Appalachian State,” Monken said. “I don’t know how you do that. They don’t bottle it and sell it.
    “It’s our jobs as coaches to have them ready,” Monken said. “You have to handle the victory (over App) like any other game. You put it in the book, and move on.
    “We’ve still got a lot play for. While I wasn’t their coach these guys have been part of some big wins. We gave App everything we had…we came out of that game with an empty tank.”
    Fortunately for the Eagles the Catamounts, while potentially dangerous, fall on the schedule at the right time.
    Coach Dennis Wagner said his team has struggled to put together a complete game this season, and the last two contests, losses to Appalachian and Furman, are excellent examples. 
    “We got down early against Appalachian State,” Wagner said. “We gave them a short field. Their first three touchdowns drives were less than 120 yards total.
     “Any time you get in the red zone and get only two scores you can’t beat a good team like App. The score was not indicative of how close that game should have been.”
    The Mountaineers posted a 27-14 win in the mountain rivalry, but they were up 21-0 in the first period against the mistake plagued Catamounts.
    Furman was a similar story as Western came unraveled in the second half.
    “I thought we played good football the first half,” Wagner said. “The offense moved the ball and the defense got some stops.
    “They came out the second half and drove it 70 yards and then we were three and out,” Wagner said. “We missed a field goal later, and that seemed to take away our energy. We ran 36 plays in the first half, but only 18 in the second.”
    Ball possession has been an issue for Western. Its opponents have run 673 plays to the Cats’ 552, and they are eighth in the league in turnover margin at minus eight. Only The Citadel is worse at minus 12.
    Robert Brown leads the Eagles in rushing with 401 yards to rank eighth in the SoCon. Brown is the only freshman among the top 10 rushers.
    Quarterback Jaybo Shaw now has 1,036 yards total offense. He has thrown for 809 yards, and has 227 rushing.
    The Catamounts lost quarterback Zack Jaynes, who had 19 straight starts, two games into the season with a back injury. Zac Brindise, a transfer from South Carolina, has completed 90 of 159 passes for 1,046 yards.
    Freshman wide receiver Deja Alexander has 26 catches for 435 yards while sophomore Michael Harris has 527 yards rushing.
    Defensively the Cats are the league’s worst, allowing 424 yards per game, 200 on the ground, while the offense is averaging 282 yards per game.
    The Eagles are sixth in total offense with 335.4 yards per game, 243.7 rushing, and are second in total defense, allowing only 300.3 yards per game.

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