Like many college football teams this season, the Georgia Southern Eagles have had to learn to adapt to changes. The Eagles were scheduled to open the season at Boise State, but the Mountain West postponed football, and the Eagles, all of the sudden, had an open date on Sept. 5.
Following what turned out to be a season-opening victory over Campbell, the Eagles were next set to play Florida Atlantic in an anticipated non-conference showdown of G5 foes. The Owls had COVID-19 issues, and that game was rescheduled for Dec. 5. The Eagles picked up a game November 21st at Army to help with losing Boise State.
Last week the Eagles got the news that COVID issues at Appalachian State pushed that game from Wednesday to Dec. 12. Athletic Director Jared Benko quickly got a replacement for what would have been another open week, and that brings us to Saturday’s game with Massachusetts.
Georgia Southern head coach Chad Lunsford, and his players feel like they have dealtdelt with adversity on and off the field for the past few years, and feel like they are built to roll with the punches and adapt better than most teams.
“I don’t know if everyone remembers, but we had Shai Werts' case, and Quan Griffin arrested,” said Eagle defensive lineman Raymond Johnson. “We had a death on the team, and a lot of other things, but we are used to adversity. We have put ourselves in a position to go through these mental challenges with our mental coach and doctor on the team. It has really helped us a lot.”
“We feel like it has always been about us, and how we handle things,” said Lunsford. “In 2017 this senior class was 2-10, and they dealtdelt with a lot of adversity that we didn’t overcome that year. We were able to flip that the next year and learn from our experiences. We had to deal with a lot of challenges again in 2019, and while the record may not be exactly up to Eagle standards, theythe showed they are resilient.”
This Saturday the Eagles go up against another team that has had plenty of adversity this year as they host UMass. The Minutemen had their season postponed, but were eagle to play someone this fall. Saturday they will get their first and only opportunity to play football as they take on the Eagles for the fifth time in school history.
The two teams have split in their previous four meetings. UMass won their first matchup defeating the Eagles 55-43 in the 1998 national championship game. The Eagles returned the favor the next year beating the Minutemen 38-21 in the 1-AA quarterfinals behind a 333 yard five touchdown game from Adrian Peterson. UMass beat Georgia Southern 55-20 in 2017, and the 670 yards of total offense is the most the Eagles have given up since moving to FBS. The Eagles once again got payback in 34-13 in 2018.
“This is the only game they play this year, so it’s kind of tough to prepare for them,” said Lunsford. “We have to be ready for trick plays, and maybe a defense they didn’t show last year. They know nothing is guaranteed except for this game Saturday. They have put in a lot of hard work and we are ready for a good team.
“Coach Bell called me when we were talking about playing this game, and he expressed how tough it has been for his players when they have done everything they have asked them to do,” said Lunsford. “It wasn’t their fault they opted out, and when you are only guaranteed one game, that makes them a dangerous team in my opinion.”
The Eagles and Minutemen are set for a 4:00 start at Paulson Stadium.