When evaluating the 2019 Georgia Southern football team, there is plenty to consider.
For all the hurdles - be they mental, physical or emotional in nature - faced by the Eagles, there are also plenty of shining moments. And while the team’s current mark of 6-5 can fairly be criticized as a record that could easily be better, it’s impossible to simply write off a win over No. 20 Appalachian State and a near upset of a Minnesota team that is still in contention for a ‘New Year’s Six’ bowl game.
The Eagles are a good team. You can’t perform that well against nationally ranked teams without having talent and executing well. A team can’t overcome a laughably-long injury list while overcoming a 1-3 start unless it has drive, depth and mental toughness. And a team can’t overcome the tragedy of losing a teammate mid-season without stellar team leadership from players and coaches alike.
What’s missing is one thing that every coach has preached at one time or another.
That’s not a particularly damning criticism. Great teams sometimes fall short because their greatness doesn’t always show up. Even professional teams - with players who are paid millions of dollars as an incentive to be the best at their sport - routinely struggle with keeping their play at a consistently high level.
In the end, all the singularly great efforts and memorable performances aren’t quite enough if they don’t show up each game. Whether its bad snaps against Louisiana, the inability to get off the field on 3rd-and-30 at Minnesota or giving up what was essentially three straight deep routes for touchdowns at Arkansas State, those were all small moments in games that had a major effect.
The Eagle offense is slowly coming along. The passing attack - albeit used in comeback situations - is also showing flashes. The team’s turnover differential is once again one of the better marks in the country. When those things show up in spurts, the Eagles are clearly capable of beating just about anyone on the schedule. But when they aren’t constantly present, those small cracks turn into big fissures which potential wins can fall into, never to be seen again.
Appalachian State will play for another Sun Belt title next weekend and could very well end the season ranked. Any person who viewed the Halloween night game where Georgia Southern topped the Mountaineers knows that the records of the two teams are much farther apart than the abilities of each.
Appalachian State is in a good spot because of their consistency. With the exception of their loss to the Eagles, App never seems to give up the back-breaking play. They always seem to have one more clutch offensive play ready to go when they need it. They never kill themselves with turnovers and penalties.
Once Georgia Southern can turn that corner, it’s clear that they have what it takes to reclaim the top spot in the Sun Belt.