The Georgia Southern Eagles have not had to show how they can do coming off a loss, but that all changes this week as the Eagles dropped a 35-21 decision at UAB last Saturday and will host Ball State Saturday at Paulson Stadium.
Trailing 21-0 the Eagles managed an impressive comeback cutting the lead to 28-21 in the fourth quarter, but their third interception of the game proved costly as it led to another UAB touchdown and their first loss of the season. Head Coach Clay Helton was disappointed in the loss and the turnovers, but has liked the balance the Eagles have showed on offense to this point this season.
“I have been pleased with the balance in the run game and how efficient it has been for us,” said Helton. “I think there was even more we could have done last game and we need to exploit that especially if teams are going to drop eight and play coverage like we saw vs UAB. We also have to be willing to take what the defense gives us and not force anything and go through the check downs. UAB was going to make us go the long way and I think we got impatient at times.”
On offense the Eagle offensive line has shown a lot of improvement from last season, but struggled in the first half Saturday against UAB. Eagle center Logan Langemeier felt like the line did a good job adjusting to the issues they had in the first half and is hopeful the Eagles can take a step forward this week against Ball State.
“We weren’t really getting things rolling like we would have wanted to in the first half last week,” said Langemeier. “We watched film and we all thought the adjustments we made really helped us. Our big goal this week was in our preparation for Saturday. I think it starts with me at center and I put us in some bad calls at time with some combos and I know I have to do better. All five of us know we have to act as one and execute this week.”
The Eagle defense has struggled the past two games as they have given up 77 points and allowed UAB running back DeWayne McBride to rush for 223 yards and four touchdowns. Helton said the Eagles have emphasized gap integrity and tackling. Senior defensive lineman Dillon Springer knows teams are seeing what the Eagles are having problems with and expects Ball State to test them Saturday.
“We have to do a better job of tackling, and getting guys on the ground,” said Springer. “We are going to try and attack that and improve as a defense this week. The thing about football is when you struggle like we have it’s on film and everyone sees that. Now you can expect the next team that plays us has seen that film and they are going to think that is a weakness we can exploit. We plan on getting better at stopping the run this week and not let that happen again.”
The Eagles will be hosting Ball State Saturday. The Cardinals come in with a record of 1-2 and are coming off a 31-0 victory last week against Murray State. Ball State has a pretty balanced offensive attack as quarterback John Paddock has thrown for 797 yards and six touchdowns. The Cardinals have also rushed for an average of 156 yards per game and are led by Carson Steele with 305 yards and two scores.
“They are a team that has gotten better each week,” said Helton. “Offensively they have a powerful run game, with a quarterback who is doing a nice job distributing the ball to a bunch of different wide outs. He is one of the better fade throwing quarterbacks I have seen in a while. He is accurate in throwing the deep ball so we have a challenge there in our one-on-one matchups. They balance that with two strong running backs as well.”
The Eagles have struggled to create turnovers this year and on the offensive side they will have to do a better job of holding onto the ball Saturday. Helton also feels like the Cardinals are very sound on defense and like UAB he thinks they will force the Eagles to have to be patient on offense.
“They don’t make many mistakes on defense,” said Helton. “They will make is go the long way and limit our big plays. Their offense helps their defense because they put together long drives and you are sitting there on the sidelines wanting to get your offense out there. It is going to be important for us to get off the field on third down and not let that offense get going, and on offense we have to do a much better job of protecting the football.”
Saturday’s homecoming matchup for the Eagles and Cardinals is scheduled for a 6 p.m. start at Paulson Stadium.