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Georgia Southern: The good and the bad t
Georgia Southern Geor Heal 2 WEB
Georgia Tech's Dedrick Mills, left, sores a touchdown against the defense of Georgia Southern's Jay Bowdry in the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game in Atlanta, Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016. Georgia Tech beat Georgia Southern 35-24.

Georgia Southern hasn’t yet hit the panic button on its 2016 season, but at this point, you have to figure that everyone at least knows the exact locations of the hazmat suits and escape pods.
    The Eagles went up to Atlanta last weekend and returned home from Georgia Tech with its third consecutive loss. The three-game slide is the first of its kind in seven years. And while dropping a relatively close game on the road to an ACC opponent isn’t the biggest surprise, there’s no doubting that the Eagles are struggling and that the road doesn’t get any easier from here.
    Another loss wasn’t what the Eagles wanted, but - when reading between the lines of the final score - showed some improvement in problem areas. At the same time, some issues that have plagued the team all season continued to pop up and hurt the Eagles.
    So - with half the season gone and half the season ahead - there are some pros and cons. Not everything is as bad as the current losing streak, but it will take a quick fix on some notable shortcomings to get Georgia Southern where it wants to be at the end of the season.
    In all, there’s good news and bad news…
    • GOOD NEWS: Despite the recent losing streak, the Eagles still have an excellent shot at winning the Sun Belt Conference. While there are still seemingly infinite possibilities as to how each conference game will turn out, the reality is that the Eagles are just one loss behind the conference leaders. Looking ahead, Georgia Southern has a chance to hand a loss to some of the undefeated teams while Arkansas State - which defeated the Eagles - is unbeaten in conference play, but doesn’t look like the team that swept through league play last season.
    • BAD NEWS: Entering the season, Georgia Southern would have been a prohibitive favorite in at least six of its eight conference games. That confidence is no longer there. Georgia Southern may be a slight favorite at New Mexico State this weekend, but the Aggies have shown flashes of being a dangerous team and this will be the fourth consecutive road game - and longest road trip of the year - for the Eagles. The rest of the conference path isn’t much easier as Appalachian State comes to town on a short week, Georgia State seems to be building momentum and Troy is looking like a possible conference champion.
    • GOOD NEWS: Turnovers were a point of concern during the Eagles’ three wins and were a back-breaker in their first loss. Option offenses are always prone to putting the ball on the ground at a higher-than-usual clip. And a renewed focus on the passing game means that the Eagles’ quarterbacks are being asked to make more technical throws despite being run-first for most of their collegiate careers. It seems like things are coming around as Georgia Southern hasn’t committed a turnover in its last two games.
    • BAD NEWS: The GS offense has been holding onto the ball, but hasn’t been manufacturing points. Two weeks ago, the Eagles turned five Arkansas State turnovers into all of three points. Georgia Tech never gave the ball away last Saturday, but Georgia Southern won the time of possession battle. Unfortunately, the Eagles running 30 more offensive snaps than the Yellow Jackets didn’t equate to a better offensive output.
    • GOOD NEWS: The Georgia Southern passing game continues to grow with each passing week. Since his hiring late last year, GS coach Tyson Summers has maintained that the Eagles must grow their passing game in order to reach their offensive potential. Trailing throughout the game led to Southern’s season-high 33 pass attempts last weekend, but 169 passing yards and a touchdown through the air is encouraging, no matter the circumstances.
    • BAD NEWS: An advancement in the passing game was supposed to be used to make the Eagles’ running game all the more lethal. Georgia Southern still ranks 14th in the country with an even 1,600 rushing yards. But those yards haven’t been efficient, requiring 348 attempts - second most in the nation - to reach that total. The Eagles now have a passing attack worth respecting, but not one that can win games on its own if the running game can’t pose its normal threat.
    • GOOD NEWS: For a team trying to stop the bleeding, Georgia Southern is well-equipped to handle the stress. Over a dozen seniors hold key roles on the squad and continue to project confidence onto younger Eagles who might be experiencing adversity for the first time.
    • BAD NEWS: All of those senior leaders can help in the short term, but will be gone in a few months’ time. Georgia Southern may have fewer issues than many other teams in the country, but that doesn’t change the expectations of excellence from year to year, no matter who is a veteran and who is new to campus. Any sort of turnaround will be beneficial to the 2016 season, but paving the way for success in the future is just as important for a program that doesn’t want to lose momentum on what has been an historic burst onto the FBS scene.
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9408.