If there was any question about Georgia Southern’s football team being able to focus on the task at hand they were answered last Saturday in a 41-7 hammering of New Mexico State.
The Eagles (4-3, 2-1 Sun Belt Conference) had to play not only in horrid weather conditions but after dealing all week with the death of freshman teammate Jordan Wiggins.
Thanks to leadership from players such as senior cornerback Kindle Vildor the Eagles were able to compartmentalize the events of the week and deal with the task at hand which was make sure they didn’t falter against a winless Aggies team.
With a Thursday night game at nationally ranked Appalachian State looming, weather and Wiggins’ passing it would have been easy for the Eagles to go thru the motions.
The No. 20 Mountaineers (7-0, 3-0) will be the third nationally ranked team the Eagles will face this season having already played current No. 1 LSU (8-0) and No. 13 Minnesota (8-0).
“That’s something isn’t it,” Vildor said of playing three ranked teams. “And they’re all unbeaten, too.”
Vildor, the Sun Belt Conference’s pre-season Defensive Player of the Year, has no illusions about what the Eagles will be facing in Boone. And, he said, neither does his teammates.
“It’s a different vibe and mindset this week,” Vildor said. “I definitely feel a different vibe.
“People are more focused, like it’s the first game of the season. A first game challenge.”
Georgia Southern is fighting for its championship life as a loss to the Mountaineers will leave it two games behind App in the East Division race.
Plus, there is the revenge factor.
Georgia Southern is the last team to beat App State which is riding a 13-game winning streak. In last year’s 34-14 win over then No. 25 ranked App the Eagles knocked out quarterback Zac Taylor on the third play of the game.
With Taylor out the stunned Mountaineers never recovered against a Georgia Southern team that was posting its first win against an FBS ranked team.
“I know they believe the outcome would have been different if Taylor hadn’t got hurt,” Kildor said. “He and I talked about that this summer at the Sun Belt media day. All I know is we won the game.
“I know we’ve got a big challenge ahead of us,” Vildor said. “They’re a really good football team and Taylor is a good player.
“It’s going to be fun going in there and being the bad guy. The weather will be cooler than what we’re used to here and the game will be on television which means your friends and family will be watching. You don’t want to get embarrassed.”
This is one of the top rivalry games in FBS dating back to when both schools were members of the Southern Conference and were annual FCS playoff teams.
“It’s like a mini-Power 5 game,” Vildor said.
App leads the rivalry 19-14-1 and the Eagles haven’t won in Boone since 2007. Vildor would like to see that streak broken.
Vildor played his high school football at North Clayton and has started 25 straight games and enjoyed a superb junior season when he was All-SBC while intercepting four passes and being on the field for 831 plays. He had 42 tackles including 4.5 for a loss and also had a team-high 11 pass breakups.
His eight career interceptions ranks 10th on the GS career list and he is proud when opposing coaches say he and fellow corner Monquavion Brinson are two of the “best lockdown corners we’ll see this year.”
“That tells me my hard work is paying off,” Vildor said. “The first year (freshman) I came in focused and locked down on learning my craft.
“When the opportunity came I took it and ran with it.”