The Georgia Southern Eagle football team currently sits at a 1-2 record and coaches, players and fans are disappointed in the way things have started this year.
Playing the first two games without projected starting quarterback Justin Tomlin, a tough start was a distinct possibility. The lopsided scores and lack of consistency is more of a worry for Eagle Nation.
Heading into Saturday, the Eagles are a two-touchdown underdog at home against unranked Louisiana. The number of times the Eagles have been double-digit underdogs at home can be counted on one hand. There’s a chance — if things don’t turn around quickly — they could be double-digit underdogs three times this year at Paulson Stadium as they still have meetings with two top-20 teams as Coastal Carolina and BYU remain on the schedule.
Taking the head coaching position at Georgia Southern comes with the high expectations of Eagle Nation. Message boards calling for the firing of a head coach come with the territory, but that usually comes toward the end of a season. The only times that has happened mid-season over the past 25 years have been with Brian Van Gorder and with Lunford’s predecessor Tyson Summers.
Lunsford had a front row seat to what happened with Summers and doesn’t feel he has seen the warning signs that were evident during Summers tenure especially in his second and final season.
“I think the things I learned from being there in that situation is it’s important to keep the team engaged and keep them believing,” said Lunsford. “They have to believe in what you are doing, and they have to believe we are doing the right thing. If you ever get in a situation where your team splits separately, I think that is where you get a downfall. I don’t feel our guys are anywhere close to that.
“People on the outside may feel that way. When I sit in that team room, and we talk and when we go out to practice, I see a bunch of dudes going out there to do what we are asking them to do and believing in it. Because I am a positive guy, I know it’s going to work out.”
Whether or not it works out still remains to be seen. There is still plenty of time to right the ship this season, but there is no avoiding the fact that the Eagles have looked pretty bad on both sides of the ball through the first three games.
The Eagles averaged over 27 points per game last year and yielded only 20 points per contest. Currently through three games, which includes a 30-25 win over FCS Gardner Webb, the Eagles are giving up 36 points per game and 525 total yards per game including 353 yards per game through the air. The Georgia Southern offense is averaging just 15 points per game and have scored just three touchdowns over the last 10 quarters.
In a season full of inconsistency one constant has been that the Eagles have started games well, but have finished poorly. The Eagles face just a 40-36 disadvantage over the cumulative first halves of their first three games. The scary thing is how badly they have played in the second half as their opponents have outscored them by a whopping 68-10.
“Adjustments are being made at halftime, we aren’t just going in the locker room and having a thumb war,” said Lunsford. “If I could put my finger on what’s going on I would snap my fingers and fix it right now. We have to get our confidence back. We have to have confidence that we are going to come out of halftime and play the way we need to play. We are going to attack and play our brand of football. We haven’t done it and those fingers get pointed at me.”
As bad as the Eagles have looked at times, there have been moments and areas of the game to be optimistic about. The Eagle front line has put pressure on quarterbacks and has played pretty well against the run. The offense looked better with Tomlin in at quarterback and there were open receivers against Arkansas. There were times when passes were dropped, or timing was just off, but they are things Lunsford is hoping to build on.
“The best way to describe us is being inconsistent,” said Lunsford. “We have moments when we look really good on a drive on offense or on defense, but we aren’t consistent. We have to be on the same page on offense, defense and special teams.”
“We are looking at this like we have just played the first quarter of the season,” said Lunsford. “We are going into the second quarter now. We have to make sure we are getting better each and every week. We can’t be on a roller coaster, we have to make sure we are climbing. Whether it’s a little improvement or a lot it has to improve. We have to get better with each and every rep in practice each and every day and each and every game.”
The Eagles host Louisiana Saturday at 6 p.m. in Paulson Stadium.