If Georgia Southern wants to get back to the top of the mountain, Saturday evening was a step that they had to take.
Saturday’s win wasn’t pretty, flashy, or even decisive, but it was a win — and that’s what the Eagles need to accomplish their goal for this season.
Time after time, Chattanooga was able to find some sort of answer to stay in the game. The overwhelming feeling in the stands was that it was Georgia Southern’s game to lose, yet the score never gave the same sentiment.
Desperation passes connected, fake punts worked, and many bounces seemed to go in the direction of the Mocs, yet the Eagles held their ground and came out on top. In the end, those kind of performances mold more champions than blowout victories.
For the first time all season, GSU faced some real adversity. The Eagles grabbed an early lead, but were finally confronted with a team that wasn’t willing to roll over and let them take another win. Coming off a pair of devastating losses to its own playoff cause, Chattanooga had nothing to lose and everything to play for and it demonstrated as much, making big stops and notching huge scoring drives when things counted the most.
Some teams might have been shaken a bit to see an opponent take hit after hit, but keep coming back stronger. In the end, the Eagles proved that they wouldn’t be rattled by a scrappy challenger – no matter how big the chip on its shoulder.
Perhaps it took a nip-and-tuck game to bring it out of the Eagles, but they showed a grit and determination that hasn’t been showcased since last season’s run through the playoffs. Sure, they didn’t make every big play, and one or two more stops along the way could have saved some drama, but when things mattered most, GSU thrived.
On its final drive of the day, Chattanooga knew the deal. It was either reach the end zone or go home a loser. To their credit, the Mocs responded, fighting down the field with little more than an enthusiastic backup quarterback and a determination to save its playoff resume.
Sure enough, Terrell Robinson pushed his team across the goal line, but when the balance of the game was narrowed down to a single play, the better team showed.
Faced with the option of tying the game with a simple PAT or going for a possible win, Chattanooga’s players and coaches were indecisive. A timeout was called, and even after a play was settled on, the execution was lacking in the most important play of the day.
On the other side of the ball, confidence never wavered. The GSU defense conceded more than it had all year Saturday afternoon. Faced with a big possession, it had allowed a touchdown drive.
None of that mattered though. When the teams lined up for the game’s decisive play, the better team proved itself. The Mocs were frantic and panicked. The Eagles were poised and on the attack.
The one play in the game that really mattered was a landslide in Georgia Southern’s favor.
That might not have shown in the final score, but it’s the sort of thing that separates a team that is doing its best to survive from one that is truly in control of its destiny.
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.