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Miscues equal misfortune for Eagles

Miscues equal misfortune for Eagles

Miscues equal misfortune for Eagles

Furman defensive end Ira McCune, left...

    When Georgia Southern was 4-4 in 2010, things seemed all but lost.
    In 2013, the Eagles are off to the same start — 4-4, and on a two-game losing streak — and  are coming off a 16-14 loss to Furman in a game in which at least 13 points came off the board due to a pair of missed field goals and a punt return for a touchdown called back because of a penalty.
    One thing was very different in 2010 when the Eagles bounced back, won five straight games and made it all the way to the Football Championship Subdivision semifinals — there was a lot on the line to play for.
    “We had a carrot dangling out there,” GSU coach Jeff monken said. “If we win the next three, all three conference games, we’re going to go to the playoffs. For our seniors and juniors, they had never been to the playoffs before, so there was something that they were fighting for.”
The Eagles looked pretty bad through eight games in 2010, and the same could be said for the 2013 squad, which is just 2-4 in Southern Conference games.
    “When we were 4-4 in 2010, I didn’t know if we’d win another game. I wasn't sure we were good enough to have won the four we’d won already. But we found a way, and we kept winning. And I hope this team will do the same,” Monken said. “We can’t change anything that’s happened in the first eight football games. All we can do is try to prepare and be ready for this week, and hopefully we’ve built a football program here that doesn’t take a win for us to be upbeat, where every time we don’t win, it puts us in the tank.”
    The Eagles face Western Carolina (2-7, 1-4 SoCon) on Saturday at 2 p.m.
    It will be the last game Georgia Southern plays in Paulson Stadium as a member of the FCS, and Monken hopes the seniors will draw inspiration from their legacy rather than finishing the season on a losing note.
    “It’s human nature. We’re all human,” Monken said,” For competitive people —and I am — just the chance to go out there and compete every weekend, that’s enough for me. I’m going to fight and I love the competitive nature of sports. But it’s that push and that drive for something more. Right now, what we’ve got is the opportunity for those seniors to leave a legacy over the four years that They’ve played. How many games are they going to win? They started this season with 31. What’s it gonna be? 35? 36? 37 or 38? You’ve got an opportunity in your career. Let’s keep working toward it.”
    The Eagles, who have battled injuries throughout the season, played good enough to win against Furman, but it was the points off the scoreboard, and three turnovers — all by freshmen — that led to the loss.
    Furman also converted 5 of 7 third downs in the second half, three on the 17-play scoring drive that led to the game-winning field goal.
    “They converted three third downs on that drive, and I’ll give them credit, 17 plays is a long time to have the ball,” Monken said. They converted three third downs, and all three of those were outside the 40-yard line.”
    The most opportunistic play by the Eagles came midway through the fourth quarter when freshman Rafael Hardee forced a fumble and recovered it, but the Eagles gave it back four plays later on a fumble by freshman running back Irving Huggins.
    “We created a turnover when we needed it — we haven’t created enough turnovers this year and that’s one of the issues that I’ve got — but when we needed one, we got one. Then we went right back and gave it back to them,” Monken said.
    Western Carolina is coming in off of a bye week. The previous week marked a milestone for the program. The Catamounts knocked off Elon 27-24 in overtime, snapping a 33-game losing streak to Division I competition. Western’s two wins are the most for the program since winning two games in 2010.
    Georgia Southern is 21-2 all time against the Catamounts.

    Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.

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