As a lifelong baseball fan, I grew up with the old adage that “a winning streak is only as good as tomorrow’s starting pitcher.”
That sentiment isn’t exclusive to baseball as prolonged success in any sport is only attainable if a team is able to check all of the boxes and do all of the little things correctly from one game to the next.
Simply put, the huge wave of emotion and momentum that swept over the Georgia Southern football team after beating a nationally ranked Appalachian State squad didn’t carry over to the Eagles’ next game. For every inspired play made against App, the Eagles had a flat-footed look as UL Monroe stormed its way to a victory. For every fortunate bounce Georgia Southern found against its arch rival, it seemed that an equal and opposite disaster was lying in wait against the Warhawks.
This isn’t a calling out or a tsk-tsking of the Eagles or their effort. It takes a nearly perfect team to make it through an entire season without suffering a game where things just don’t work out and — for all their success this season — the Eagles are still far from being perfect. That a team with so many new coaches and so much youth in key roles took so long to get around to such a disastrous game is impressive, but the timing of everything certainly makes things sting a bit more for the team and fans alike.
For a team that has such high hopes for both the remainder of the season and for the immediate future, Saturday’s loss needs to serve as a lesson that is quickly learned and corrected.
Early in the season, the Eagles found success by doing all of the little things right, even if the big plays weren’t always there. Sheer athleticism powered the winning effort against South Carolina State and an impressive intensity allowed the Eagles to hang with Clemson for four quarters even while dealing with a hostile environment, a truckload of injuries and an impending hurricane. They rose to the occasion in crunch time against Arkansas State and Texas State and they buried Appalachian State under a sea of turnovers and momentum.
But out in Monroe, all of the little things went lacking just as all of the big things — like blown coverages and an inability to gain first downs — also went wrong. Georgia Southern proved it could overcome a slow start on the road in a convincing win over New Mexico State last month, but the Eagles were able to do that by going back to basics and playing a disciplined final three quarters.
Against the Warhawks, the penalties and negative first down plays continued throughout the game. And when two huge momentum plays — a pick-six and a blocked punt recovered for a touchdown — went their way, they were unable to capitalize and immediately gave back the points to fall further behind.
So now the Eagles are faced with a task that is unique for this season.
For the first time this week, the Eagles will enter a game coming off of a disappointing performance (it’s hard to count a loss to Clemson as too disappointing). The last two months have been a steady stream of the Eagles and their fans building up performance and expectations with each passing week.
Now is the time for Georgia Southern to prove that it’s the effort and process of preparing for a big game that matters more than riding a winning streak.