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Pride can be tricky thing

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Pride can be tricky thing

When used wisely, it can summon up the best in a person and push him farther than he thought he could ever go — almost like a secretive superpower. But, like most superpowers, there is a dark side to pride that can make it just as destructive as it is awesome.
    After a tumultuous 2016 season and a catastrophic start to 2017, the Georgia Southern running game — the pride of the team and of its fans for the majority of its modern history — is hurt. And injured pride can either renew effort and resolve, or it can turn down a dark road.
    There’s no sugarcoating the results of the last 13 games’ worth of production from the Eagles’ offense. Georgia Southern routinely dominated the ground game as an FCS school. And a transition to FBS play didn’t phase it a bit as the Eagles led the nation in rushing for both 2014 and 2015.
    And then the next 13 games happened.
    Holes aren’t there. Blocks aren’t made. Players who have shown electrifying big-play ability are routinely swallowed up as the punt team once again jogs onto the field.
    So what’s to be made of the current situation?
    Optimism was abound as a truckful of new offensive coaches — with decades of option experience between them — rolled into town this season. Georgia Southern was no stranger to putting scares into even the top FBS teams as an FCS team running the option and the first two Sun Belt versions of the Eagles seemed to be the same threat, so there were plenty of people hoping for the best even as the Eagles trekked into the backyard of a very good Auburn defense.
    Needless to say, the best didn’t happen. 70 yards of rushing. Less than 1.5 yards per rushing attempt. A grand total of one play that gained more than 10 yards.
    That’s a big punch that landed right on the pride of an entire program.
    But to coin the great philosopher Rocky Balboa, it’s not about how hard you can hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep going.
    Saturday was ugly by any means of looking at it. Given nearly two days before going in front of the media for a press conference, even the coaches were hard-pressed to do more than cherry-pick a slight offensive bright spot here and there.
    To say that Saturday’s performance was one of the Eagle offense’s darkest hours is a heavy statement, but it’s arguably true. And it also becomes a jumping off point for which direction that offense’s pride can go from here.
    Pride can lead to recklessness. It can blind someone and make them lash out. In the Eagles’ case, it can lead to pushing young players to do more than they’re ready to and stunt their growth in the new offensive staff’s system. Worse yet, damaged pride can lead to a team doubting itself when its potential hasn’t yet been scratched, much less reached.
    Or, pride can lead to some introspection. And it could force players and coaches alike to find the tools and mindset that is necessary to achieve the lofty goals that they — and the fans — have set with the team’s previous successes.
    Everyone involved with Georgia Southern football needs to soak up Saturday’s game. Denial and impotent rage over a crappy day on the field don’t help anything in the long run. But maybe owning that failure can serve as a spark. Sure, there were hits that had to be taken by fans from Sun Belt rivals mocking the Eagles’ faceplant and it takes some stoicism to stand there and take it as a random Auburn fan dismisses Saturday as little more than a scrimmage and won’t give another thought about Georgia Southern, regardless of future successes. Just remember that the players and coaches wear that pain as much as the fans - and pain in the short term can lead to better days in the future.
    Pride almost always lights a fire.
    It’s up to the source of that pride whether the fire powers an engine or burns the house down.

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