By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Missed opportunities hurt chance for upset
Placeholder Image
   When Georgia Southern’s Homecoming festivities wound down late Saturday afternoon at Paulson Stadium, it was missed opportunities that troubled the Eagles more than anything else.
    Late in the game, the Eagles were on the brink of a major upset over one of their most hated rivals — defending national champion Appalachian State, the nation’s top-ranked team. A win would have been priceless for a transitioning Eagle team still searching for its identity.
    The Mountaineers (7-1, 4-0) needed two overtimes to secure the 27-20 victory, which the Eagles (3-4, 2-2) couldn’t help but feel was within their grasp.
    “They were very beatable,” senior linebacker Jason Earwood said. “We should have taken care of business and finished off the game. We had chances to finish the game and didn’t.”
    The Eagles struggled most on third down, converting just 4 of 17 tries. GSU was 0-2 on fourth-down conversions.
    “This loss is really devastating — App State being the No. 1 team coming into Our House and playing here,” said receiver Raja Andrews, who caught his first career touchdown pass in the second quarter. “We did everything we could hope to do. We prepared hard at practice. We had many opportunities. They were a great team, and they made plays when they needed to make plays.”
    Appalachian State turned the ball over four times to GSU’s zero, but the Eagles managed only 14 points off of the four turnovers. Dawayne Grace recovered a loose ball at the ASU 42 late in the first quarter, but the Eagles turned the ball over on downs four plays later. The Mountaineers coughed up the ball again midway through the fourth quarter with the game tied at 17-17. Ronnie Wiggins recovered at the GSU 37, but the Eagles’ struggling offense managed just 15 yards before punting.
    Another close loss hit close to home for Georgia Southern, which has lost to Central Connecticut State by four points, Chattanooga by one and ASU by a touchdown.
    “We’ve had chances to win games,” senior linebacker John Mohring said. “We could be 6-1 right now. We are just a few plays away. The coaches are working hard, and the players are working harder than they ever have before. People had opportunities to make plays today and it just didn’t happen.”
    Said first-year coach Brian VanGorder: “These games you have to deliver. When it’s time to deliver, you deliver. In the back end, we didn’t do that today.”
‘We really wanted this’
    Georgia Southern’s seniors, dealing with wholesale changes during their final year in blue and white, are working to keep their heads up.
    “We’re pretty down, especially the seniors,” Earwood said after the game. “This is our last time playing App, and we really wanted this game bad. This is a tough loss to swallow, especially because we had them beat. We should have beaten them. It’s tough. We’ve just got to keep our spirits up. It’s going to be hard. We’ve really improved every week, and we just need to keep doing that. We can’t worry about how the playoffs are going to go, we just need to keep progressing and getting better as a team.”

Up next
    The Eagles will hit the road this weekend for a 2 p.m. game at The Citadel. The Bulldogs also went to overtime Saturday, defeating Western Carolina 30-27.
    Don’t be completely fooled by The Citadel’s 2-5 (2-2 SoCon) record under second-year coach Kevin Higgins. Two of the Bulldogs’ five losses were against Division I-A teams, Texas A&M (35-3) and Pittsburgh (51-6), while the other three loses were by a combined 16 points. Aside from the Catamounts, The Citadel’s only other win this season was a 24-21 victory over Chattanooga the week after the Mocs upset Georgia Southern.
    The Eagles lead the all-time series 12-3 and have won the last two meetings dating back to The Citadel’s 28-24 victory that spoiled GSU’s homecoming in 2003. Georgia Southern won 49-14 last year in Statesboro.

    Alex Pellegrino can be reached at (912) 489-9413.