Two very similar teams on two different levels.
That’s what we saw Saturday in Georgia Southern’s 42-12 loss at North Carolina. Both teams had been struggling offensively and playing good defense leading up to the game, and you just knew going in that the defense was going to make the difference for both teams.
Six GSU turnovers later, and the team that couldn’t do much on offense but had ACC players beat the team that couldn’t do much on offense with FCS players.
Georgia Southern’s defense played well, forcing four turnovers of its own and holding UNC to just 289 yards, but the difference in the game boiled down to flat-out athleticism. There aren’t any other linebackers on the Eagles’ schedule who could make that play – you know the one I’m talking about.
Also, I don’t care who you are or who you’re playing – shutting a team out for a half is no easy feat, and Adam Urbano showed once again why he deserves every carry he’s getting in Georgia Southern’s offense. Of course none of that really matters now.
The only thing that matters from this point on is that the Eagles now have two options (no pun intended) – win each of the next five games and make the playoffs or don’t and don’t.
Winning five-straight games has not been an easy task for GSU of late. In fact, the last time it happened was back in 2004, an eight-game streak that started with an 84-3 slobber-knocker against Johnson C. Smith and ended with a 63-7 win over South Dakota State before the Eagles fell 29-22 to then-No.3 Furman on the road. The streak included a 58-14 win over third ranked Wofford and a 54-7 win over No. 15 Appalachian State.
In other words, it’s been a while, and it ain’t gonna be easy.
Let’s take a look at what we’re dealing with.
First, there’s Chattanooga. The Mocs (4-1, 2-1 Southern Conference) aren’t the same team that didn’t win a single Division-I game last season. They’ve got a new coach and a brand-spankin new transfer at quarterback and have proven that they’re no slouches.
Next, there’s Appalachian State in Boone, and the Eagles will be Jaysonless.
Then it’s Bulldog homecoming at Samford, followed by GSU’s homecoming against Furman. It’s all capped off by the season finale at Paulson against The Citadel.
Well, I said before the season started that Georgia Southern would be a good football team by Week 7. Since I’m no fan of backpedaling, I stand by that.
It all starts with that Chatty game. Interestingly enough, it just so happens to be Week 7.
There’s been bits and pieces of a good Georgia Southern team at times throughout the season. Urbano and kicker Adrian Mora have been the only consistent part of the offense, and the defense has spoken for itself, but there’s been some moments in other parts of the game.
Assuming the defense will continue to play well, let’s take a look at what else they’ve got.
Jamere Valentine was a playmaker against Albany and Wofford. Darreion Robonson, who was suspiciously absent from the first half against the Tar Heels, had a breakout game against the Terriers. The offensive line has been run blocking all year, but only shows up to pass block on alternate weeks.
None of the remaining games will be easy, but if all those pieces each play at a high level from here on out, GSU will have a chance in all of them. The real X-factor will be the play of quarterback Lee Chapple.
In Chris Hatcher’s offense, the success of the team is very, very reliant on the ability of the QB to deliver the football to his receivers (they can all catch the football, more or less) and Chapple will need to do it without making any more mistakes.
If he can turn the interceptions and sacks into incompletions and keep putting the football on the money when he has the chance, the Eagles will have one.
The scenario is an unlikely one, but goodness knows Georgia Southern fans are getting pretty sick of spending Thanksgiving weekend with their families.
They’d rather be watching more GSU football.
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.