A tough, frustrating night for the Georgia Southern Eagles ended in a 49-31 defeat at the hands of PJ Fleck’s Western Michigan Broncos.
Southern had issues with its offensive line, defensive line, injuries to both starting quarterbacks and too many mistakes overall. Despite that, WMU is a very good team and there are many reasons to believe the Eagles can bounce back (really).
Take out a fumble, pick-6 and a kickoff returned for a touchdown and you’re likely looking at a GS win. As it is, those things did in fact happen, and there was a reason for it, so it’s time to move on and gear up for the conference slate.
Georgia Southern did a decent job staying close in the first half, and could have gone into halftime only down four if not for two of the aforementioned disasters.
After the teams traded a few passing scores and GS settled for a field goal to make it 14-10, WMU’s Darius Philips ran in a 100-yard touchdown return on the kickoff.
Kevin Ellison then fumbled on a very late pitch attempt, which led to another easy Western passing touchdown and a 28-10 lead. It went from dogfight to nearly out of hand that fast.
Both teams added two more passing touchdowns, Southern’s to Myles Campbell and Western’s to Corey Davis, to leave the halftime score at 35-17. Yep, both of GS’s touchdowns came through the air. Overall, three of the Eagles’ four scores on the night were of the passing variety. That’s not necessarily a good thing.
The Broncos got 180 air yards just in the first half, and led in pretty much every other statistical category save for time of possession. They outgained Georgia Southern 407-370, got more first downs, more yards per play and, crucially, scored 14 points off of turnovers.
Half of those came on GS’s first drive of the second half as Upshaw threw a long pick six, with Phillips again hitting the end zone to make it 42-17 and pretty much putting the game out of reach.
If that weren’t enough, Upshaw was injured on the play and didn’t return. Ellison took over, limping, and lead two heroic touchdown drives to get within two scores. But the comeback was not to be as Western went on a long, clock-draining final scoring drive to leave the score at 49-31.
It’s not exciting to talk about, but the game really is won and lost in the trenches. Western Michigan quarterback Zach Terrell had way, way too much time in the pocket, while Georgia Southern had trouble getting penetration for its run game, especially in the first half.
Major credit to Upshaw and Ellison for adapting and striking on those touchdown passes (Upshaw connected on four of five attempts in the first half). Things would have been uglier had they not come through.
Georgia Southern has some major regrouping to do, though it isn’t time to panic. Western is a great team and Fleck is a great coach. The Eagles can still beat their rivals, win the Sun Belt and win the bowl game.
Let’s just use the lazy metaphor: They ran into a buzzsaw.
- ESPN3 is horrible. The announcers called us Georgia State, the broadcast completely cut out for a five-minute period, and they added Southern’s first field goal and second extra point to Western Michigan.
.@ESPN3 This is not the score pic.twitter.com/uwbMVjhHTQ— Haisten Willis (@HaistenWillis) September 25, 2016
How hard can it be to get that right? You just added six points to one team. There is no way in the rules of American football for the other team to then score exactly one point.
Hopefully a few future games are picked up by ASN, who did a great job broadcasting the USA contest a few weeks back.
- Western Michigan’s uniforms were um, interesting. Some said they looked like a Golden Girls out, while others just called them “ugly.”
They also contained an Easter Egg.
There are oars on Western Michigan's helmets. pic.twitter.com/PDAjfCO501— Haisten Willis (@HaistenWillis) September 25, 2016
It’ll be interesting to see whose helmets bear those oars next year. If it’s someone else, that’s a well-deserved promotion for Fleck.