Not only is Georgia Southern still winless, but the Eagles seem to be finding new ways to come up short with each passing week.
An anemic offensive showing — especially in the second half — kept the Eagles from profiting off a halftime lead, but it was a seemingly unending parade of mistakes, miscues and general lapses of judgement that really sank the ship.
“It’s just so frustrating for us,” GS linebacker Chris DeLaRosa said. “We’re out there, playing hard and having some success, but then we just do some dumb things. We have too many dumb mistakes that we know are costing us every week.”
The penalties and undisciplined play began almost immediately. On the opening drive of the game, Eagle linebacker Tomarcio Reese was flagged for targeting and disqualified for the rest of the game. Reese’s hit didn’t appear to contact the NMSU receiver in the head, but the initial call stood, Reese was sent packing, and the Aggies finished the drive in the end zone for an early 7-0 lead.
Facing an Aggie team that put the ball in the air 51 times on Saturday, an already-depleted Eagle secondary took another hit when R.J. Murray was also called for targeting. NMSU’s Jason Huntley was stumbling and diving for the first down marker, and when Murray ducked his head and contacted Huntley with his helmet, the flag came out.
“R.J. is one of our leaders out there,” GS coach Tyson Summers said. “We had a game where Josh Moon is back and we finally have the rotation for our safeties where we want it and then we have R.J. go out. That was tough to deal with as the game went on.”
The Eagles suffered maybe their costliest loss of composure — and lost another player — while trailing in the fourth quarter.
Monquavion Brinson had just hauled in his second interception of the night to put the Eagles in NMSU territory while trailing 28-27 in the fourth quarter. Following the whistle after a short run, another flag went flying. In a game that was chippy at times, GS center Curtis Rainey was caught getting too aggressive after the play had been blown dead and was subsequently thrown out of the game for fighting.
Losing another starter was bad enough, but the 15-yard penalty attached to the ejection effectively killed the Eagles’ drive. New Mexico State took the Eagles’ ensuing punt and marched nearly the length of the field, scoring a touchdown in the final minutes and forcing Georgia Southern to get out of its option offense in an attempt to race down the field for a possible tying score.
“It’s on me,” Summers said. “When it comes down to how any player responds or reacts, it’s a mechanism of coaching. So it’s on me and I have to do a better job.”
Aside from the penalties, there were also problems with execution.
The Georgia Southern offense looked explosive at times in the first half and finally got to run some snaps while holding a lead. The offense drove 55 yards for a field goal to stretch a slim halftime advantage to 27-21, but then lost its spark and managed just one first down the rest of the night.
The defense was equally liable, allowing Aggie receivers to run free downfield for several 3rd-and-long conversions. The Eagle defense couldn’t hold on 3rd-and-13 with just under three minutes to play while trailing by a point and — with the ability to force a field goal and let the offense play for the win — gave up a touchdown on 3rd-and-goal at the end of the Aggies’ final drive.
“I’ve been here a while,” DeLaRosa said. “This isn’t how I want to go out. This isn’t where any of us want to be. We’re disappointed, but we know that it’s in our hands. We’ve had some success, but we have to do better if we want to get wins.”