It’s about time y’all.
I was wondering where the Georgia Southern team everyone talked about was. When I first moved here, the people of Statesboro had me convinced another Sun Belt Championship was on the way in 2016.
I had no reason to doubt you folks either. Six FCS National Championships, a Sun Belt Championship in your first season of FBS football and almost every player returning off a 9-4 team that slammed Bowling Green into the ground the previous year.
I have waited a long time to meet this Georgia Southern team. Make it nine weeks now that I’ve been waiting like Rapunzel for her prince to arrive and save her.
But for over two months now I’ve just sat atop my castle and gazed out into the unknown — waiting for the “real” Georgia Southern to finally arrive.
I’m not going to lie — it got pretty lonely.
I fondly think back to the opener against Savannah State. I was taken back by the tailgating, the crowd and the fanfare. As a guy who grew up in the SEC, I felt right at home in a big-time college football atmosphere.
But when the Eagles finally kicked off, I found myself confused and unsettled. This team I was watching — the one wearing the uniforms that donned Georgia Southern’s colors and logos — didn’t play like the Georgia Southern I had been told about.
This team struggled to hit big plays or really establish a solid rhythm against a Savannah State team that was clearly awful. Sure, the score at the end of the night said 54-0 — but that never quite felt right as I left the stadium that hot September night.
“Maybe they’re rusty,” I told myself. That happens every once in awhile, even to good teams. Heck, it’s one game. You can’t draw any real conclusions from one game, right?
But my confusion continued the next week against South Alabama. The team that claimed to be Georgia Southern was put to task by the Jags. Sure, the defense held USA to nine points — but it’s not as if USA couldn’t move the ball.
Heck, Georgia Southern struggled to do what they’re known best for — running the ball. Outside of some big QB scrambles by Favian Upshaw and Kevin Ellison — Georgia Southern was getting nothing from their backfield.
I increasingly became more suspicious. But even as my trust wavered, I still tried to believe this was the Georgia Southern team I had read such great things about in preseason magazines and in past editions of the Statesboro Herald.
So much so, I invited my friends down from Greenville, SC to come watch the UL-Monroe game. I told them about all the tradition, the fan fare, the six championships. I had talked up the team as much as the people of Statesboro had done to me since I moved to the ‘Boro in July.
At halftime, I met my friends in the concourse with Georgia Southern down 14-10 to a UL-Monroe team that currently sits 3-6. My friends all looked to me for some explanation as to why this “good” team I had talked about earlier was losing to a pitiful Warhawk squad.
I didn’t have any answers. I felt hoodwinked by this team and the people who had talked it up for so long. I went back to the office to watch the rest of the game, annoyed by Georgia Southern’s inconsistency and inability to play with such a mediocre Monroe team.
It took a blocked field goal for Georgia Southern to win the game, and at 3-0 I knew what I was watching was fraudulent. It was not good football, and it certainly wasn’t the brand of football I had been told about by Eagle fans.
I did not know who this team was, but I knew it wasn’t the team the folks of Statesboro have come to know and love over the past 35 years.
My feelings were sadly confirmed over the next seven weeks. Georgia Southern went 1-5, with the only win being a measly 22-19 squeaker against a miserable New Mexico State team. I probably don’t need to remind fans the Eagles trailed the Aggies going into the fourth quarter of that game.
After last week’s game against App State, I didn’t think I’d ever see Georgia Southern play a football game. At least the Georgia Southern I thought I knew, not whatever product was being put out on the field last Thursday.
Alas, from my living room bursting out of my television this afternoon was none other than… Georgia Southern!
My God! Everything the fans had told me was true! The team that lost to Arkansas State was not in Oxford, it was in fact the Georgia Southern team I had been told about. My prince had finally arrived to my castle!
Georgia Southern pounced on Ole Miss early, hit big plays for touchdowns and even led the Rebels for most of the first half. It was like breathing fresh air for the first time after living in smog your whole life.
No, Georgia Southern didn’t win — and they never were going to. Yes, this Ole Miss team is banged up. Their defense is way down this year. They have no run game. They might not even make a bowl this season.
But player-for-player, they’re better than Georgia Southern. And Southern played them in a competitive game from start to finish. I’d even go as far as to say it’s the best game the Eagles have played all year.
This is a Georgia Southern team I can get behind covering. This team is fun and has a chance to run the table the rest of the season.
Not the team from last week, I don’t know who they are — but the team I saw Saturday, they can absolutely do that.
So it was nice to finally meet you Georgia Southern! It was a pleasure, and I hope to see you again this Thursday.