It’s nice to be able to line up and simply run roughshod over opponents. It’s even better to be able to walk onto the field and instill fear into other teams.
Unfortunately, that isn’t the case for Georgia Southern this season.
Fortunately, this looks like an Eagle squad that doesn’t mind getting its hands dirty and do things the hard way.
There’s no doubting the disappointment of Georgia Southern’s loss to Wofford two weeks ago. Many fans felt that the Eagles would outclass the Southern Conference in their farewell tour, leaving a lasting impression as they went. Those dreams were given a rude awakening as the Terriers pushed GSU around to send the Eagles home with a loss and a banged up ego.
It would have been easy for Georgia Southern to simply go through the motions, seeing as how its goal of an unbeaten season was gone before it really gained traction.
It would have been easier still for the Eagles to take their foot off the gas and let a Chattanooga team — one with much more to play for — grind its way to a SoCon win in Paulson Stadium Saturday night. The Mocs looked to have Wofford’s confidence of several weeks ago as they stormed from behind to take a lead in the second half.
But then Georgia Southern’s pride showed up.
Saturday’s win won’t take home any awards for style. There weren’t many highlight-reel plays dotting the Eagles’ comeback and, to be fair, penalties on Chattanooga’s behalf played a large role in the come from behind win.
Still, there was a different air about the Eagles in their second conference game of the season. Chattanooga seemed to view GSU as a wounded animal with little to live for. The Mocs circled for the first half before taking their shots and closing in for the kill.
Far be it for me to pinpoint the final straw for the Eagles, but midway through the second half, Georgia Southern seemed like a team that had made a decision not only to get up from the side of the road, but to become the predator instead of the prey.
Jerick McKinnon seemingly willed the offense down the field on two scoring drives. The Eagle defense — giving up just a few yards too many on so many plays throughout the night — hit another gear and stuffed the Chattanooga attack. A crowd of 16,827 that had decided to come out and support its team rather than wait for a sunnier day in the future showed that it still had its intimidating roar.
Saturday’s win won’t go down in history. There won’t be many Eagles who look fondly on it as one of their biggest games. In the grand scheme of things — with GSU ineligible for a SoCon championship — it’s entirely likely that Saturday’s win will be one of the more irrelevant victories in school history.
But that is only what the stats will say.
Georgia Southern has always been a hard-nosed team willing to fight for four quarters and win ugly if necessary.
That was called into question after one loss. It took the Eagles all of one game to answer the questions.
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.