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Eagles determined to start over, look towards mountain
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    Regardless of year or circumstances, the Appalachian State game always has a huge red circle around it on Georgia Southern’s calendar.
    This season is no different, but perhaps the circle is a little bit bigger.
    Not only are the Mountaineers two-time defending national champions, they’re also the team that pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the history of college football with a season-opening win at then-No. 5 Michigan.
     Ranked fifth in the country, Appalachian’s got the swagger Georgia Southern is looking to regain, and to top it off, the Mountaineers (5-1, 1-1) boast Division I’s longest home winning streak at 30 games. The Eagles (4-2, 1-2) want nothing more than to snap that run Saturday when they travel to Boone, N.C., for a 3:30 p.m. game.
    This year’s matchup carries additional significance for a GSU team that picked up its second conference loss last week.
    “It’s a big rivalry, but it’s also pretty much a must win for us,” senior quarterback Jayson Foster said following practice Monday. “Finishing third or fourth in your conference doesn’t get you into the playoffs, so we need a big win up there at their place.”
    The Eagles know they’re heading into a hostile environment as an underdog and say they are ready for the challenge. The game will mark the beginning of what GSU is considering a new season, one in which they’ve completely moved past a pair of heartbreaking overtime losses to Chattanooga and Elon.
    “We put (our first) six games behind us,” senior offensive lineman Russell Orr said. “We wish we were 6-0 right now, but we’re not. There’s nothing we can do about those two losses. We can’t cry about it. We’ve just got to learn from the past and win out. We’ve got a chance to go prove something.”
    The Eagles feel like they’ve been playing hard but said they have to shore up mental busts and missed assignments to knock off Appalachian, which is averaging more than 40 points and 421 yards of total offense a week.
    “Every game is a big game for us now with the situation we’ve put ourselves in,” Eagle coach Chris Hatcher said. “Of course this is a little bit bigger because it’s one of our fiercest, most-hated rivalries that we’ll play all season long.
    “This team’s got a long ways to go right now. We’ve got to come together. We are not doing the little things that we need to do to be a really, really good football team, but hopefully we’ll start this week.”

Eagles drop out of polls
    Georgia Southern’s return to the Top 25 was short lived.
    A week after garnering their first national ranking in nearly a year, the Eagles dropped out of the FCS polls Monday. GSU was 21st in both the FCS Coaches and The Sports Network polls last week but is now unranked after a double-overtime loss at Elon last Saturday.

Playing for to win vs. for overtime
    With the Elon game knotted at 30 and 1:32 left in regulation, Georgia Southern began its final drive at its 12-yard line. The Eagles moved 16 yards on four running plays before time expired, forcing overtime.
    “We had (88) yards to go, and we don’t throw the ball very well so there isn’t a whole bunch that you can do,” Hatcher said. “If we had broken a couple of those runs for big gainers we would have been able to (go for the win). But the last thing you want to do is turn the ball over and get beat right then and there. You’ve got to be real careful about how you do that.”
    As for whether or not the Eagles were offsides on Elon’s first field goal attempt in the first overtime, Hatcher said he couldn’t comment on officiating. The Phoenix’s Andrew Wilcox missed the potential game-tying kick wide left, but got a second try after GSU’s Brandon Jackson was flagged for lining up in the nuetral zone.

    Alex Pellegrino can be reached at (912) 489-9413.