Winning the turnover battle is something that most coaches say can be the difference between a win and a loss. Georgia Southern coach Clay Helton has expressed his concern in that department and was one of the reasons he brought defensive coordinator Brandon Bailey over from Buffalo.
Last Saturday at Wisconsin the Eagle defense was unable to create a turnover, while the offense handed it to the Badgers six times. With four turnovers the Eagles still managed to lead Wisconsin in the third quarter, but struggled throughout the game with only two touchdowns in eight trips inside the Wisconsin 35-yard line.
“Our mind set going into that game was to not only compete but to win the game,” Helton said. “You are never going to be able to win a game in which you have six turnovers and getting zero. If you would have told me we were going to be inside their 35-yard line eight times and have 52 percent efficiency on third down I would have said we put up a lot of points, but the reality is we only scored 14. I felt the defense really kept us in the game but we made critical errors down the stretch.”
Eagle quarterback Davis Brin had a game he’d just as soon forget about. Despite throwing for over 380 yards and one score, he had five interceptions and a fumble. Helton pulled him from the game in the fourth quarter, but wanted to assure people that it wasn’t exactly what you would call being benched.
“We took a lot of starters out in the series in which Davis came out,” Helton said. “We were down by three scores with less than five minutes to play and put some younger kids in the game. He had troubles but he also made some tremendous throws in the game and was nine of 17 on third down against a great defense. Quarterback and head coach get all the accolades when you win, and when you lose you get all the questions. He has handled all this with class and is ready to get back out there and compete.”
This week the Eagles hit the road for a trip to Muncie Indiana and a matchup with the Ball State Cardinals. Ball State is currently 1-2 with losses to Kentucky and Georgia to start the season and most recently a 45-7 win over Indiana State.
Last year the Cardinals hung with the Eagles before Georgia Southern pulled away outscoring Ball State 14-3 in the fourth and decisive quarter.
“I feel like they really found their identity last week against Indiana State,” Helton said. “They found a rushing game and did some good things with their RPO. On defense they played really sound. We remember these guys from last year when we trailed in the fourth quarter and had to make two late scores to get that victory.”
The Eagles know they are going to have to improve things on offense in order to be successful this week, especially cutting down on the turnovers.
“That game last week hurt us, but it didn’t break us down,” said Eagle receiver Derwin Burgess Jr. “I think it actually pulled us together as a team. The mental mistakes we made in that game are not on just one person, we all play a role whether it was the receivers or the offensive line or running backs. I know we will bounce back. I think we match up good with them, but we know they are a good team.”
On defense Georgia Southern played well for three quarters at Wisconsin but were worn down a bit in the fourth. Players and coaches know they are going to have to be a little more aggressive against the Cardinals and try and get back to creating some opportunities for the offense.
“We have to try and get out there and create some turnovers to help the offense and we are going to try and do that this week,” said linebacker Marques Watson-Trent. “Ball State was really good last year. They had a really good running back who transferred to UCLA this year but they still look good and I remember how hard they played last year. It was a battle last year and I am pretty sure they are preparing for another battle this year.”
Georgia Southern and Ball State are scheduled for a 2:00 kickoff in a game that will air on ESPN+.