Heading into the Coastal Carolina game, Chris Hatcher thought the matchup was potentially the biggest game of the season for his club.
The first-year Georgia Southern coach knew road wins never come easy in college football and that the shell-shocked team he inherited would still be feeling its way around another new system. They’d be up against a Chanticleer squad that, even though it lost three dozen seniors, advanced to the playoffs a year ago and owns three-straight Big South Conference titles.
As Hatcher hoped, Georgia Southern proved up to the challenge, holding on for a 42-34 victory last Saturday in Conway, S.C., to improve to 2-0 on the year. Eagle players said the win helped give them a better idea of where they stand two weeks into the season.
“Coastal Carolina’s got a great team, they’ve got a lot of good athletes and they’re coached well,” said safety Chris Covington, who picked up his first career interception. “They had a good game plan, but we just came out and were a little bit better. We just played hard all night, and I’m real proud of my team.”
Hatcher was also proud, particularly to see his team battle through injuries, which forced some Eagles to play a large number of snaps.
“We were cramping on the sideline, but it always seemed like when we needed someone to go in the ballgame, they were able to do it and did pretty well while they were in there,” said Hatcher. “It was a big win for our football team.”
The Eagles rode to the win behind senior quarterback Jayson Foster, who rushed for all six touchdowns to set a new school record and tie the Southern Conference mark. He’s accounted for 10 touchdowns this year, one more than his total output from 2006 when he was relegated to receiver.
“It feels great to score that many touchdowns this early, and hopefully we’ll keep adding to it,” said Foster, who agreed the Coastal win served as a barometer.
“They had a lot of athletes out there, and they kind of matched us man-for-man. We had to go out there and show our determination, hard work and just and outplay them. They kept scoring every time we scored, so we just had to go back out there and answer.”
Areas of concern
Through two games, the Eagles continue to be plagued by penalties. Georgia Southern was flagged 11 times for 96 yards Saturday and has been hit with 18 penalties for 152 yards this season.
GSU is also struggling on third downs, converting 5 of 15 against Coastal. The Eagles were 4-for-11 in their season opener and are converting just 34.62 percent of third downs on the year.
Georgia Southern’s defense is another concern as the Eagles have surrendered an average of 354 yards a game. Coastal finished with 370 total yards against GSU while West Georgia put up 338.
“We still made a lot of mistakes,” Hatcher said. “We’ve got a lot to work on, and we are still a very young football team in (regards to) what we are trying to do.”
The Eagles weren’t happy with the way things turned out last year in Chattanooga, Tenn., when senior Esteban Lopez nailed a 38-yard field goal as time expired to lift the Mocs to a 27-26 victory, Chattanooga’s second win over Georgia Southern in 20 tries.
The Mocs, who visit Paulson Stadium for a 7 p.m. game Saturday, were off last week and are 0-2 with losses to Carson-Newman and Jacksonville State. Senior quarterback Antonio Miller missed Chattanooga’s last game, but Mocs coach Rodney Allison said he’s hoping Miller will be 100 percent by Saturday.
The game will mark the beginning of Southern Conference play for both teams.
Alex Pellegrino can be reached at (912) 489-9413.