Georgia Southern linebacker Rashad Byrd is familiar with Eagle football history.
He was happy and proud to see history repeat itself last week in Boone, N.C., when the Eagles beat a ranked Appalachian State team for the second straight year.
Byrd also is fully aware of what happened after that historic 34-14 beatdown of the No. 25 Mountaineers—it was Georgia Southern’s first win over a ranked team—and he is bound and determined to see that what followed is not repeated.
After beating the Mountaineers the Eagles found themselves with the inside track to a spot in the Sun Belt Conference championship game as the East Division representative.
That never happened because of what happened the next two weeks.
The euphoric high generated by the upset of App lasted only until kickoff of the next game as Louisiana-Monroe posted a solid 44-25 win.
The following week Troy came into Paulson Stadium and pulled off a 35-21 win. The Eagles regrouped and ended the season with a three-game win streak that included a Camellia Bowl win over Eastern Michigan to finish 10-3 but the inability to handle success proved costly.
A year later Georgia Southern (5-3, 3-1) finds itself in the same situation after beating No. 20 App, albeit the same two opponents will be played in reverse order. This year Troy (3-5, 1-3) will be followed by Louisiana Monroe.
“It’s great beating your rival,” the 6-0, 230-pound Byrd, a redshirt junior, said. “I personally feel last year we got complacent after we beat App.
“Right now we’re clicking,” Byrd said of the Eagles’ four-game winning streak. “It’s hard to point to one specific area but we’re all playing good.”
Byrd, in particular, is having an excellent season as he is in the process of putting together an all-conference pick season.
The North Augusta, S.C., product leads the Eagles in tackles with 59 and had two of the best games of his career against No. 1 LSU and No. 13 Minnesota.
Byrd had a game and career high 16 tackles against the Tigers and he scored what could have been the winning touchdown against the Gophers.
With 3:47 to play Byrd, who had a game high 11 tackles, picked up a fumble and ran 44 yards for a touchdown to give Georgia Southern a 32-28 lead. Unbeaten Minnesota, however, then drove downfield to score with 13 seconds left to avoid the upset.
All of that, Byrd said, is in the past.
The focus now is on the task at hand: Troy.
“We’re in the same position we were in last year,” Byrd said. “I think we can draw on that experience.
“A lot of people on this year’s team were here last year and we all remember that feeling,” Byrd said. “I think guys have a better understanding that everyone’s job is important.”
Byrd has proved to be quite a catch for the Eagles. He was the Augusta Chronicle’s Area South Carolina Player of the Year and the Aiken Standard’s defensive player of the year in both his junior and senior years.
Power 5 schools hesitated because of his height but that has proved to be a non-factor. He has proven himself against LSU, Minnesota and Clemson last year when he had eight tackles and an interception.
In addition to his outstanding play he has also emerged as a leader on a team that needs strong leadership as it heads down the stretch in charge of its own destiny.
“I feel I’m a leader,” Byrd said. “Leadership is an honor to me. I was elected a captain and that was because I’m respected by my teammates.”