By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Eagles get through tough week, now brace for App State
JD King
Georgia Southern running back J.D. King splashes his way into the end zone during the Eagles' 41-7 victory over New Mexico State. - photo by By SCOTT BRYANT

Georgia Southern won its fourth game of the season - and its third straight - with a 41-7 victory over New Mexico State Saturday at Paulson Stadium.

The win was easily the Eagles’ most comfortable coast to the finish line so far this season, but there was nothing comfortable or easy about the week, even after the win had been secured.

There were plenty of individual performances for the Eagles to be proud of, but everyone had a teammate in mind, even as they reflected on the win. Freshman offensive lineman Jordan Wiggins was found in his room - and later pronounced dead - of an apparent suicide on Monday. The Eagles grieved and altered all of their normal game week plans, but ultimately played and got a much-needed win.

But as GS head coach Chad Lunsford was quick to point out following Saturday’s win, simply playing a game and getting a victory isn’t going to make the hurting stop.

In fact, the pain was enough to where a player who played a huge part in Saturday’s win nearly sat out entirely.

Senior linebacker Rashad Byrd is putting together an All-Conference caliber season. He’s been a menace to opposing running and passing games alike, but he wasn’t with the team just a few hours before Saturday’s game.

“He told me he didn’t think he could play,” GS coach Chad Lunsford said. “I told him not to play if it wasn’t in his heart, and that everyone would understand. 

“He went home. I don’t know exactly what he did or if he prayed on it, but he came back. He was the only one that had that conversation with us, but I know he’s not the only one of our guys who has struggled.”

When Lunsford held his weekly press conference Monday afternoon, it was clear that the team’s mood was still walking the tightrope between coping with tragedy while still trying to move forward.

“It was an emotional game and an emotional victory,” Lunsford said. “You use the term ‘family’ in college football and Georgia Southern is that. We’ve built a strong brotherhood and it’s a great thing to be around. You come to work, but it’s not coming to work. It’s your home.”

The healing will take a while, but the season continues to move on. And now the Eagles face their biggest test to date.

A short week precedes a midweek trip to arch-rival Appalachian State on Halloween night. The Mountaineers received their first ever national ranking as an FBS team ahead of last year’s game in Statesboro, only to have it immediately stripped away when the Eagles rolled to a 34-14 victory. Appalachian State broke into the national top-25 again two weeks ago and will enter Thursday’s game as the No. 20 team in the nation. 

On top of that, App will also enjoy the home field advantage in the latest edition of the rivalry game. And the Mountaineers haven’t dropped a contest to Georgia Southern at Kidd-Brewer Stadium since 2007.

“Well, I’ve been a part of a lot of these,” said Lunsford, who has coached on both sides of the rivalry. “It’s definitely fun. But it’s a hard task. We try to always make it about us - fixing our weaknesses and making our strengths better - but this one is always a little different.”