The Georgia Southern football team is currently 1-2 after a 45-10 loss at No. 20 Arkansas. The Eagles hung around for the first half, but as has been the case the past two games in the second half there was not much offensive production, and the defense didn’t help matters as they were outscored 21-0. Eagle head coach Chad Lunsford shared his frustration after the game but felt many team goals were still alive.
“Through the first three games we are not where we want to be,” said Lunsford. “Being 1-2 is not good, but we are going to start conference play right now and if we can build off some of the positives, we have seen in the games that would be good, but it is about winning, and we need to find a way to win this week. I told them we need to find a way to come back from the dead and play the way we are capable of.”
The Eagle defense was thought to be a strength of the team but have gone from giving up over 500 yards of offense at Florida Atlantic to over 600 yards of offense Saturday against Arkansas, with some of the same issues still happening.
“I’d say there is a pretty general feeling of disgust,” said Eagle senior defensive lineman Justin Ellis. “You take two 30 point plus losses back-to-back and you kind of have to re-evaluate what you’re doing. You have to look in the mirror every night and figure if you’re putting in your best effort to accomplish the goals we want to accomplish. We all know that what we have put on the field is not who we are, so it is encouraging to know we still have our best football in front of us.”
Ellis feels lack of communication has been the biggest issue the defense has had and is frustrated the same issues popped up again Saturday.
“Defensively we haven't been in sync,” said Ellis. “We haven’t been playing as a unit as guys are running different things. We have to communicate more in practice, so it carries over into the games. We aren’t overly complicated as a defense, we just need people to lock into their playbook and make sure we are on the same page.”
As far as the Eagle offense goes, they have struggles to put points on the scoreboard and have only found the end zone three times in the past in the past 10 quarters of play.
“Obviously it’s not a good feeling right now,” said Eagle tight end Beau Johnson. “It’s kind of dismal around here. We know it is all stuff that we can control, so that’s the brighter side of things. I feel like we can finish drives more on offense. We have driven the ball downfield fairly well, but we weren’t able to punch it in when we got to the red zone. I think doing that will put more points on the board and win games.”
It is disappointing,” said Lunsford. “We wanted to be better on execution, wanted to better at discipline and we were inconsistent again. Pre-snap penalties was an issue as we had seven on Saturday which is a recipe for disaster. Missed assignments and dropped balls are self-inflicted wounds that hurt us as well.”
As far as the silver lining in a cloudy day, Lunsford points to special teams and the first game at quarterback for Justin Tomlin.
“The positives for the games weren’t many, but I felt special teams played well,” said Lunsford. “Anthony Beck did a terrific job helping us to flip the field. We got a lot of young guys in and they are continuing to grow and get better. I think Justin Tomlin played well and looked really fast on his touchdown run. He made some good reads; we did have some dropped passes and he was off the mark a little on a few throws, but I thought he threw the ball well and ran the offense well. There’s a different energy with him in there at quarterback.”
Having started the season with a 1-2 record, with the two losses being pretty lopsided, Eagle fans have been pretty vocal in their frustration with the job they feel Lunsford and his staff are doing. At Monday’s press conference Lunsford addressed the reaction many fans are having at this time, and if he feels he is on the hot seat.
“I’m a man of faith,” said Lunsford. “I feel that my steps are ordered. I feel that God has a plan for me and my family, so why worry about things you don’t control. I control how we practice, who is on the depth chart, and who plays. I have to focus on the things I do have control over. If the product on the field is not to the liking of the fan base, they have every right to get upset about it.”
“We are a form of entertainment,” said Lunsford. “It is our job to perform for our fan base. For them to get upset I say thank you because if you are from a group who doesn’t care and doesn’t want you to be great and win championships I don’t want to be there. They have every right in the world to be upset, but I’m not going to let it bring me down. I’m going to do the best I can do and believe in my guys and coaches, and we are going to go to work every day and do the best we can do and if it’s meant to be it’s meant to be.”
“I’m not defined by football,” said Lunsford. “I love football and I love to win and compete. I don’t want to lose. I probably hate losing more than I love winning, but it's not going to define my life. I have one person to please, and that’s God my savior and that’s what I’m going to do.”
The Eagles open conference play Saturday as they host Louisiana in a 6 p.m. start at Paulson Stadium.