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Rollercoaster season continues
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    After his team managed merely 65 rushing yards in 20-point loss at Paulson Stadium Saturday, junior Dusty Reddick summed up the situation rather simply.
    “This is definitely not Georgia Southern football,” the fullback said.
    The Eagles’ rollercoaster season took another dip over the weekend when No. 11 North Dakota State overpowered the 21st-ranked Eagles in a 34-14 win, Georgia Southern’s third loss of the season and second at home. The Eagles (2-3) haven’t strung two wins together yet this year and the young team has struggled to find balance week to week.
    “Staying even-keeled is something we’ve got to work on – that’s something great football teams can do,” Reddick said. “It can’t be a rollercoaster.”
    Staying on track from Saturday to Saturday begins with playing consistency for four consecutive quarters, something the Eagles have struggled to do on both sides of the ball. Through the first five games, Georgia Southern’s offense has been more productive in the first half when the Eagles have outscored opponents, 80-45. But things change after halftime and opponents are outscoring Georgia Southern, 68-35, in the second half. Saturday was the second time this year the Eagles have been shutout over the final two quarters.
    “It seems like we get better at something every week and move backwards in another area,” Reddick said. “We’ve got to start playing a complete football game. It’s just something we’ve got to work on. We’ll come back next week and work on finishing football games as an entire team.”
    Said cornerback Brandon Jackson: “We’ve just got to stay consistent. If we are going to play good defense, we’ve got to finish it through four quarters.”
    Following Saturday’s loss, first-year Eagle coach Brian VanGorder continued to express confidence in his team.
    “We are going to win, we are just in a transition and working to get better,” he said. “There are a lot of positives, and we’ve yet to put an entire game together. We need to play good sound football in all areas of the game, and we just haven’t been able to do that up until this point.”
    With Saturday’s loss, winning the Southern Conference title is GSU’s best shot for making the playoffs. Georgia Southern (1-1 SoCon) resumes league play this week, hosting Elon for a 1 p.m. game.
    “We can’t afford to lose again,” sophomore running back Chris Covington said.
Feeling the effects
    VanGorder said the effects of NDSU’s 67-yard scoring drive nine seconds before halftime carried over into the second half. The Bison (5-0) converted three third-and-longs on the drive, the beginning of 27 unanswered points by the Bison.
    “We had a couple third-and-long situations, and when you don’t get stops there, it usually comes back to haunt you,” VanGorder said. “It certainly gave (the Bison) confidence that (on) any third down situation they were having a high success rate. In my experience, I’ve felt like those things will come back to bite you.”

‘Where we are headed’
    The Bison, who are in the mist of a five-year reclassification from Division II to I-AA, have the type of team Georgia Southern is looking to build, VanGorder said.
    “If you look at North Dakota State – that’s where we are headed, big, strong, 300-pound offensive lineman, big defensive tackles,” he said. “We had a time against those guys today.”

Up next
    Under first-year coach Pete Lembo, Elon (3-2, 1-1) has already equaled its win total from a year ago. The Phoenix opened their season with a road victory over Coastal Carolina and are coming off of a 37-19 win over Western Carolina Saturday.
    Quarterback Wes Pope threw for a career-high 296 yards and three touchdowns in the win, Elon’s first over a SoCon foe since the Phoenix defeated The Citadel on Nov. 13, 2004.
    The Eagles lead the all-time series with Elon, 6-0, and defeated the Phoenix 49-7 last season.

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