Two weeks ago against Wisconsin, the Georgia Southern Eagles had four turnovers and were still leading in the third quarter. The Eagles ended up with six turnovers and a frustrating 35-14 loss at Camp Randall Stadium in a game many players and coaches felt they could have won if they would have just held onto the ball.
Last Saturday Georgia Southern showed how dominant they can be in a clean game as they did not commit a single turnover on offense, and created a couple on defense in an impressive 40-3 win at Ball State.
“It was probably our most complete gave in all three phases of the game,” said Eagle coach Clay Helton. “We had to face adversity for the first time this past week coming off a loss and I felt like we showed a lot of maturity in going back on the road and having a game like we did at Ball State. Our defense got off the field on third down and also created turnovers. We also stopped the run well which will be important again this week."
Quarterback Davis Brin went from being the Sun Belt player of the week, to being the goat the following week with five interceptions and a fumble in the Wisconsin game. Last week he showed his ability to bounce back in a major way completing 34 of 46 passes for 344 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions.
While Brin had a role in the six turnovers against Wisconsin, so too did the Eagle offensive line. A year after being among the top teams in the nation at protecting the quarterback the Eagle offensive line gave up six sacks against the Badgers and Brin was hit as he threw a couple of the interceptions as well. Last week against Ball State the line allowed only one sack.
“Watching film after the Wisconsin game, we realized he was getting hit and a couple of those interceptions were on us,” said offensive lineman Brian Miller. “I don’t think we were focused on the details of the protection schemes. We slipped up and he got hit, and that’s why some of those balls were intercepted. We really studied blitz packages and got things worked out and I feel we really improved this past week.”
The Eagles also gained some much-needed momentum with their win against Ball State which is important as they open Sun Belt play Saturday against the 2-2 (0-1) Coastal Carolina Chanticleers Saturday at 7 p.m. at Paulson Stadium.
Coastal Carolina has been the team to beat in the Eastern Division the past two seasons but come in 0-1 in Sun Belt play after a 30-16 loss at home to Georgia State. Gone is head coach Jamey Chadwell who has taken over Liberty University, but the Chanticleers return all conference quarterback Grayson McCall who has proven to be one of the best in Sun Belt history.
“We finally got a chance to witness how great Grayson McCall can be last year,” Helton said. “He threw for over 330 yards and three scores and rushed for a touchdown. He is the best player in our league. There is a reason he is an NFL prospect as he is an elite passer with elite feet. I don't think you can really stop him, but your best opportunity is to try and keep him behind the line of scrimmage and keep him in the pocket because once he gets out it's dangerous."
The Eagle defense knows they will have their hands full with McCall but feel if they can contain him, they like their chances.
“We want to make sure we make them uncomfortable on first and second down and doing things they aren’t ready for,” said Eagle defensive back Marc Stampley. “We need to get them in third and long situations and try to make him feel uncomfortable back there. We will try and send pressure and put him in spots where he cannot have time to process.”
First year head coach Tim Beck’s team is currently averaging 31 points per game and giving up 20 points per contest. They are rushing for an average of 133 yards per contest and throwing for just over 281 yards per game.
“I think Tim has done a great job bringing in personal with transfers and freshmen,” Helton said. “I think he has advanced Grayson even more as a passer as he is averaging nearly 300 yards per game. On defense they bring in Craig Naivar who is a near and dear friend and an elite football coach who has an ultra-aggressive system. I have been impressed with what this staff has done against some quality opponents.”
The Eagles' athletic department is anticipating setting an attendance record Saturday and announced late Thursday that only general admission tickets for the hillsides remain. Helton feels that could be a huge advantage come Saturday.
“It should be electric here with a nationally televised 7:00 p.m. start,” Helton said. “Our fan base is incredible and there’s a reason this is one of the toughest places to play in the country. What an awesome opportunity it is to try and set the all-time attendance record. You can look back on this night and say I was a part of history as part of the largest crowd in Paulson Stadium history.”