Georgia Southern football - players and coaches alike - is now in uncharted territory.
For the first time since 2009, which predates all current players and all coaches (at least all coaches on their latest stint with the school), Georgia Southern finds itself mired in a three-game losing streak.
The Eagles (3-3, 2-1 Sun Belt) took their first loss on Sept. 24 at Western Michigan. They squandered numerous opportunities to run away from Arkansas State before losing in the closing seconds in Jonesboro before falling to Georgia Tech last weekend in Atlanta.
Next up for the Eagles is a fourth consecutive road game and their longest road trip of the season. Georgia Southern is out in the high desert of Las Cruces, N.M. for a date with New Mexico State.
If things go the Eagles’ way, a turnaround from recent misfortune won’t take long to make itself evident.
“We’re trying to get out to a faster start,” GS coach Tyson Summers said. “Falling behind early has continued to hurt us. We have made some adjustments in our practice schedule and have emphasized during meetings how important it is to give ourselves an opportunity (to win) early in the game.”
For all the concerns that have built up during the Eagles’ losing streak, the silver lining is that most preseason goals are still very attainable for the squad. The loss to Arkansas State kicked Georgia Southern out of the driver’s seat of the Sun Belt standings, but the Eagles still have just one loss in league play and a chance to add another win tonight.
And while mounting losses can wear on a team’s confidence, getting back into the win column would instantly push things back toward the positive.
“We’re struggling, but we’re also making strides,,” GS receiver B.J. Johnson said. “Everyone is coming out each day and working hard. When the pieces all come together, the wins are going to come.”
Positivity is even flowing in from powers above Summers’ head.
“We got a great message from our team chaplain, Matt Wise, about how we shouldn’t worry about things that happen, because they happen for a reason,” GS center Andy Kwon said. “I haven’t been through a losing streak like this - either here or in high school - but it isn’t getting to anyone. No one is pointing fingers. We’re staying positive and only focusing on getting the next win.”
Positive thinking is one thing, but positive results are another.
New Mexico State might not have an intimidating record, but the Aggies would love nothing more than to keep the struggle going for Georgia Southern.
The Aggies come into tonight’s game with a passing offense that is averaging 308 yards per game - good for the best mark in the Sun Belt. With an already young and inexperienced GS secondary now dealing with injuries that are further thinning the ranks, NMSU senior quarterback Tyler Rodgers will be of utmost concern heading into action.
Conversely, the Eagles still have rushing numbers that rank in the upper echelon of the country, but haven’t provided enough big plays to continue powering Georgia Southern to its typical levels of scoring.
“I thought we had some improvement last week,” Summers said. “Since day one, we’ve tried to be an option team that runs the ball well.
“What we’ve seen is that teams continue to load the box, leading us to throw more. It would be one thing if I didn’t think we had quarterbacks or receivers that could succeed, but it’s been able to help us. We want to be able to sit there and run the ball, but we’re going to do whatever gives us the best chance to be successful.”
The Eagles have handled things in their first two run-ins with the Aggies. Georgia Southern overcame an early deficit during a trip to Las Cruces in 2014 and ran away with a 56-26 win in Statesboro last season.
New Mexico State has been outscored by 72 points in three Sun Belt games so far this season, giving the Eagles hope that they could have a window in which to break through and get things back on track.
“There are things that need to be corrected and fixed (from recent games),” Summers said. “At the same time, we’re going to come into this like any other game, expecting to win.”
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9408.