The Georgia Southern football team is currently 6-3, and may be standing at a crossroads this week. The Eagles games this year have come down to the last few possessions in all but two games. Last week the Eagles dropped a 28-27 decision at Army in a game where if one of many plays went their way, they could have conceivably won by one or two scores.
Things did not go the Eagles way on or off the field this past week. How they handle those distractions could send the team on a skid, or pull them together for the tough final three games of the regular season.
The Eagles found out starting running back Wesley Kennedy, and starting defensive lineman C.J. Wright had been arrested Monday. On Tuesday evening the athletic department released a statement that starting linebacker Chris Harris, and reserve defensive back Ephraim Kitchen, along with Kennedy and Wright had been suspended indefinitely for violations of athletic department policies.
Eagle players have stated their support for their teammates, but have also stressed the importance of the game at hand, which is Georgia State. The Eagles have turned this into a rivalry lately much to the disappointment of players and coaches.
“Last year we had a lot of adversity, and we came back and fought our way through the season,” said senior linebacker Rashad Byrd. “We are not the kind of team that when something bad happens we give up. I don’t think it’s a rivalry, even though we have kind of made it that way. I have some boys who play there, and we talk trash back and forth, but I hate every team we play so I will have that when we take the yield Saturday.”
“We have made this a rivalry,” said Georgia Southern Coach Chad Lunsford. “In my opinion this is the biggest game of the year for them because it’s against the Georgia Southern Eagles. We have to be ready for their best.
The season series with Georgia State is currently tied at 3-3, with the Eagles having won the last two meetings, including a 38-10 win over the Panthers last year at Paulson Stadium. Georgia State comes in with a record of 4-4, and are 3-4 in Sun Belt conference play. The Panthers have come along lately with a 52-24 win over ULM, a 17-13 loss at Appalachian State, and a 31-14 win over South Alabama last Saturday in Mobile.
“They are going to be very similar to what we saw on the defensive side of the ball because it is part of the Nate Woody tree,” said Lunsford. “They are very opportunistic. They are a team that can make many negative plays for your offense. They can make big plays on defense that can impact the game.”
The Panther offense is led by quarterback Cornelious Brown who has thrown for 1,674 yards and 13 touchdowns. Their leading receiver is Sam Pickney with 627 yards and six touchdowns. On the ground the Panthers are led by running back Destin Coates who has 620 yards rushing and five touchdowns.
“This is year two under offensive coordinator Brad Glenn,” said Lunsford. “They are showing improvement in their balance of running and passing. They can score at a high rate, but have been plagued by turnovers this season. If they are on and are clicking on all cylinders they are going to be a difficult team.”
The Panthers and Eagles are scheduled for a noon kickoff in Atlanta.