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Loss to App St. needs to be a wake up call

What do you call a team that seems flustered on offense, can’t quite put its foot down on defense, and can’t trust its special teams play with much more than an extra point?

Well, if you’re the FCS Coaches Poll, you’d call that team No. 1 in the nation — at least until Georgia Southern’s 31-28 setback against Appalachian State Saturday afternoon at Paulson Stadium.

To be sure, there were plenty of bright spots for Georgia Southern on the afternoon. Jerick McKinnon had another outstanding offensive performance and William Banks came up with three huge touchdown runs when injuries kept Dominique Swope and Robert Brown on the sidelines.

But that has been the Eagles’ biggest sticking point this season. Just when things start to run smoothly, GSU is apt to change directions entirely and seemingly make things more difficult on itself. In spots where going in one direction worked time and time again, the Eagles seemed determined to prove that they could also go a different way and stay successful.

Sure, there are injuries and adjustments that force games to take a new course, but for all of its pregame accolades and in-game success, the Eagles never seemed sure of themselves. It’s odd to think that a team that has been at or near the top of the polls all season would lack an identity, but when the going got tough on Saturday, GSU looked as though it was relying on talent and talent alone.

There is no doubting the explosiveness that resides throughout the Eagles’ roster. From McKinnon’s command of the offense to Darreion Robinson’s gamebreaking abilities to Zach Walker’s constant additions to the highlight reel for wide receivers everywhere, Georgia Southern has the ability to beat opponents from just about any angle. But for all that the Eagles have going for them, they seem incapable of picking a method of attack and riding it out to a win.

After a quarter and a half of McKinnon seemingly carving up the ASU defense at will, Ezayi Youyoute was put into action under center. Youyoute did a serviceable job and had highlights of his own, but fans were left to wonder why any change of pace was necessary.

The same can be said of the defense, which constantly rushed ASU quarterback Jamal Jackson successfully, only to lay off on crucial third down and watch him stand unrushed in the pocket to move the chains.

It’s time for the Eagles to take a good, long look in the mirror. But this isn’t your normal look in the mirror.

There is no toughness that GSU needs to discover within itself. There is no extra level of effort that needs to be achieved and no greatness that hasn’t already been realized.

The Eagles simply need to see what their fans have seen and what so many of their opponents can attest to. There is a reason that they have been held in such high regard.

Saturday’s loss will hurt in the rankings, but there is nothing lost in terms of the Eagles’ ultimate goal. As soon as Georgia Southern starts playing like the team everyone else knows it can be, it will get back to the winning ways that it should be able to celebrate more often.


Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.