It’s been a black and blue season for the Blue and White of Georgia Southern.
Throughout the season, there have been plenty of days where the trainer’s room had higher attendance numbers than film study sessions.
One of the Eagles’ biggest factors in the offensive backfield looks like he won’t suit up again this season. Their quarterback was knocked out of the opener and missed two more games. A starting defensive lineman was lost for the season in that same opener and a preseason All-American cornerback has missed the last six quarters.
Perhaps the most damaging to the Eagles’ plans, of the 60 total starts that will be racked up by offensive linemen, at least 27 will be missed by players who began fall camp as projected starters.
This is the part where Georgia Southern fans won’t want to hear excuses. But that’s not what I’m here to dish out.
The reason I bring up all the injuries is to accentuate a motto that has been ringing through the locker room for the last nine months.
‘Good to Great’.
That’s been the rallying cry of the Eagles since the beginning of spring practice. GS coach Chad Lunsford has expounded a bit on the term, often stating that it isn’t necessarily about total wins, but more about how he sees the overall program growing.
So while it would be unfair to expect optimal execution with minimal roster health, a growing and improving program can definitely show its heart regardless of the situation. Good teams take care of business anytime the chips are falling in their favor. Great teams figure out a way to stay in the fight and find ways to win that may have never been thought up in pregame planning sessions.
The Eagles showed hints of that spirit during their four-game winning streak. They were able to notch a pair of overtime wins despite being a play away from defeat in both. They managed to put up their best offensive showing of the season while running through standing water with every single step. They took a team used to muggy lowcountry conditions and marched it up a mountain to beat a nationally ranked team in freezing conditions.
That’s the ‘great’ that Lunsford is always talking about.
The greatness resides somewhere in this Eagles team, even if it has sometimes taken a seat on the bench and only shown up in the team’s most desperate moments. If it begins to be a bigger part of each game, the motto will cease to be a catchy tagline and start to resemble the traditional idea of greatness - at least as it pertains to the scoreboard.
So, to the Eagles, I’ll concede that it’s a tough road ahead.
Those injuries to the offensive line will likely continue to hamper the running game, as will the continued absence of Logan Wright from the backfield. If Kindle Vildor is still gimpy, it will be a big blow this week against another versatile and high-powered passing attack that UL Monroe will bring to town.
And — to hit an even heavier note - no game, practice or even team get-together can possibly feel quite as good as the team continues to deal with last month’s death of freshman lineman Jordan Wiggins.
But none of that can prevent the team from achieving the greatness they’re looking for. Injury, tragedy and even bird excrement-related run-ins with the law can’t do anything to damage the heart and effort and drive that a team can put forth.
If the Eagles can max out those categories in the final month, they can overcome the other things.
When fans talk about Georgia Southern, they might remember some specific games, but take the most pride in the program’s perennial successes.
And that’s where the 2019 team wants to go. If — and hopefully when — the current Eagles attain their ideal of greatness, it isn’t going to mean big wins. It’s going to mean big seasons, big rings and big plans for the future.
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9408.