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Eagles still looking to get bowl eligible
After falling to South Alabama, GS faces Louisiana on the road Thursday
GS Football
Georgia Southern tight end Jjay Mcafee, right, snags a 7-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Kyle Vantrease in front of South Alabama linebacker Trey Kiser to put the Eagles up 31-17 in the third quarter at Paulson Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 5.

One win away from becoming bowl eligible, it looked like the Georgia Southern Eagles would be able to celebrate another home victory as they led 31-17 late in the third quarter. But South Alabama stormed back to outscore the Eagles 21-0 the rest of the way and would go on to win 38-31 Saturday at Paulson Stadium.

After failing to capitalize on a South Alabama fumble early in the second quarter the Eagles put together an impressive 11-play 93-yard scoring drive to take a 31-17 lead. From there things went downhill quickly for the Eagles as they were outgained 266-29 and outscored 21-0 the rest of the game.

“In a close game between two teams it usually comes down to a few plays and they made their plays and we didn’t, especially down the stretch,” said Eagle coach Clay Helton. “Both teams were fighting one game back from the conference leaders and you could tell how much this game meant to both teams. At the end they made theirs especially in the run game and we didn’t.

Helton said after the game the only thing he was pleased about was the Eagles player’s demeanor in the locker room.

“We walked into the locker room after the game and it was complete silence,” said Helton. “I told them this is what losing is supposed to sound like. It is supposed to hurt. Each and every person in that room, from coaches to players to myself we didn’t get the job done. We can either sulk about that and feel sorry for ourselves or can get really mad for the next five days because we have a Louisiana team we will be playing Thursday night that wants it as bad as we do.”

South Alabama running back La’Damian Webb came into Saturday’s game averaging just over 83 yards per game rushing and had nine touchdowns. Saturday, he rushed for 247 yards and four scores against an Eagle defense that seemed tired and struggled to wrap him up.

“We knew coming in he was a great player,” said Helton. “I felt like in the first half we did a good job of forcing them into third and long situations, but in the second half they were able to get to third and short and they converted when they needed to. We did a good job getting to the quarterback in the first half and they did a good job adjusting and going to the run game in the second half.”

While the defense had their issues bringing Webb down, Helton also put some of the blame on the inefficiency of the Eagle offense.

“Stats tell one story but as a head coach you look at the whole game to figure out what happened,” said Helton. “On offense we did a much better job at third down efficiency in the first half compared to the second half. We went 0-3 on third and short in the second half. You look up and they have 83 plays to our 63 plays, which shows we gave the ball back to a good offense and put a higher play count on our defense. In the second half on defense, we had missed assignments, falling out of the gaps and missed tackles. That gave them third and short situations which they were able to make.”

While the Jaguars were able to convert their third and shorts, the Eagles struggled, including a key play in the fourth quarter on third and one which ended in a one-yard loss and forced a punt. Helton said he didn’t regret punting at that point with the game tied, but an interference call on the punt return tacked on a 15-yard penalty and instead of starting their drive on the 6-yard line the Jags started at their own 21-yard line.

“There were a couple of key plays that were the difference in the game,” said Helton. “We fail to convert on three third and one plays. We elect to punt and they should have been at the 6-yard line but we had an interference and they got it at the 21-yard line and eventually scored.

“Another huge play was early in the third quarter as we caused a fumble and took over at the 15-yard line. On the next play we throw an interception. Not getting the ball in the end zone there was crushing.”

This will be a quick turnaround week for the Eagles who head to Louisiana, a team that blew a 17-point second half lead against Troy. Georgia Southern players and coaches are actually happy to have a short week after Saturday’s loss.

“I’ll be honest with you I have a bad taste in my mouth and I am going to be an angry person the next five days,” said Helton. “I am glad that it is sooner rather than later.”

“Being up like we were and ending up losing definitely leaves a bad taste in your mouth,” said Eagle punter Anthony Beck. “It’s a terrible feeling, but I think it helps having this short week so we are ready to get to work and get ready for Louisiana.”

Georgia Southern and Louisiana are scheduled for a 7:30 start Thursday in Lafayette in a game that will air on ESPNU.