Just like any team in the country, Georgia Southern is looking to improve as the college football season moves into its fourth week of play.
A handful of miscues and turnovers have turned what could have been decisive conference wins into much closer contests, but the Eagles are keeping things in perspective as they move forward.
“We’re 3-0,” Georgia Southern quarterback Favian Upshaw said following Tuesday morning’s practice session. “We can play better, but the bottom line is that there are a lot of teams who want to be where we are. We play another team like us this week, so that’s what we’re concerned with.”
Upshaw is right to have his focus set on the upcoming weekend. The Eagles will take their undefeated mark and head north to take on Western Michigan (3-0), which has notched impressive victories over a pair of Big Ten schools in Northwestern and Illinois already this season.
The Eagles walked the Broncos up and down the field at Paulson Stadium last season, running away with a 43-17 victory in a game that Western Michigan was favored to win. With its hot start and home field advantage leading into this weekend’s meeting, WMU is once again the favorite — a fact that isn’t at the front of the Eagles’ minds.
“What other people decide (about who is favored) is for them,” Georgia Southern coach Tyson Summers said. “Western Michigan has a good team and we know what we need to do. The last three weeks, out opponents have had us circled on the calendar. That’s going to be the case again this week.”
As Summers pointed out, one of the best ways to ensure that the Eagles improve this week is to rein back the penalties that have been plaguing the team all season. Through three games, the Eagles have been flagged 32 times for 259 yards.
By comparison, Georgia Southern drew just 10 flags in its first three games last season.
A new approach might carry some of the blame, but that’s not to say that the coaching staff is happy about giving away free yardage.
“I think that (the penalties) are an indictment on me,” Summers said. “I’m in charge of discipline. We coach our guys to be aggressive and to play with a lot of emotion. Right now, what we’re not doing a good job of is controlling our emotions.”
Not all of the Eagles’ infractions have been the result of overly aggressive play. In fact, some of the costliest penalties of the season have been seemingly minor false starts that have fouled up a favorable down-and-distance setup and torpedoed a possible touchdown drive for Georgia Southern.
For those issues, both senior quarterbacks recognize their ability to help shape things up.
“(Fellow quarterback Kevin Ellison) and I can do more to help us out,” Upshaw said. “I think we’re comfortable with the offense and we’re both on the same page, depending who is on the field. We have a lot of older guys out here, so we should be able to do the little things better.”
If the Eagles can shape up on the flag front, it figures that more impressive results will follow. Aside from the points that may have been taken off the board due to untimely penalties, the fact remains that the Eagles lead many statistical categories for the Sun Belt Conference in both offense and defense.
A cleaner game will only serve to bolster those numbers, but those fixes must come fast as the schedule only gets tougher from here.
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9408.