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Eagles kick off 2018 season
Time for Eagles to put recent struggles behind them
Georgia Southern running back Monteo Garrett leaps over a Georgia State defender during a November 5 game last season at Paulson Stadium.
Georgia Southern running back Wesley Fields powers through for a touchdown during the Eagles' victory over UL Lafayette last season. - photo by PAUL BARKLEY/Special

In any sport, losses are no fun. You train hard and try to play your best, so when the other team comes out ahead, it’s always a tough pill to swallow.

Frustration and anger are the common emotions that go hand-in-hand with losing, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But when losing becomes so consistent and seemingly inevitable, the losses stop hurting feelings and start damaging pride.

That is where the depths of 2017 took the Georgia Southern Eagles. Today is when that needs to stop.

The Eagles have had plenty of regrettable losses in their time, but nothing ever seemed to do the kind of damage to the team and fans alike as last season’s 0-9 start and eventual 2-10 showing for the season. For the first time anyone could recall, there were games that weren’t expected to be won and damaging plays in each game that everyone just assumed would happen.

The offseason brought about press conferences and fan events where all the right things have been said about how the team is improving and how the atmosphere is good. But today is the day where all of the offseason talking points can be made tangible in the form of a win to start the season.

Most important to the Eagles’ rebuild will be how the team conducts itself on the field. A win certainly can’t be guaranteed (see New Hampshire last season) despite Georgia Southern being a big favorite, but even more important than the final score is the way that the Eagles arrive there.

In 2016, the Eagles began their season with a 55-0 victory and won their first three games, but many fans were concerned. Despite a senior-laden team fresh off of a bowl win the previous season, nothing ever seemed quite right. Those fears were realized as a disastrous second half of the season left GS with a losing record.

Last season, the on-field product was even more lacking and the fact that the Eagles were one of the youngest teams in the nation seemed at times to be making the constant losing a new ‘normal’ for a roster that hadn’t experience much winning at Georgia Southern.

So while South Carolina State is the opponent at 6 p.m. today, the much larger foe is the threat of a negative change in culture. Team morale and progress throughout fall camp would lead fans to believe that the Eagles are more likely to take a step forward than a step back, but nothing can be said for sure until the results start showing themselves on the scoreboard.

For the most part, the modern era of Georgia Southern football has been nothing but success and climbing each mountain put before it. And when the few-and-far-between bad years occurred, more success and championships have always followed in short order.

2017 was the first time that the Eagles have ever responded to a bad season by getting worse. In doing so, it brought out a vulnerability and uncertainty in both the team and the fan base that hasn’t been seen before.

So here is your crossroads, Georgia Southern. Every program that has ever existed has gone through prolonged slumps, content to take time and care in rebuilding and hoping that prosperity will eventually return.

But Georgia Southern has never been in the business of being like other programs. 

And now it’s time to go and prove that’s still the case.

Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9408.