Defense just earned the headline for the Georgia Southern Eagles.
GS has been Option U longer than I’ve been alive, but the other side of the squad finally earned its time in the spotlight in a dominant 34-14 win over the No. 25 Appalachian State Mountaineers Thursday night.
Yes, App State quarterback Zac Thomas came out early with an injury. Yes, Mountaineer star running back Jalin Moore is out for the season.
That still doesn’t explain what happened in Paulson Stadium. With the exception of one bona fide second quarter touchdown and a garbage time score, literally every App State drive ended in either a turnover or a three-and-out. Every. Single. One.
GS defensive coordinator Scot Sloan must have learned a thing or two during his eight years in Boone. His defense has the Eagles +19 in turnover margin for the season, tops in the entire country. The unit gives up yards (288 tonight, to Georgia Southern’s 334), while somehow managing week after week to keep those yards from becoming points.
Statesboro is going to be a wild place on Thursday night (yes, even more so than it is on a typical Thursday night) because this was a huge win in a rivalry that had become far too one-sided.
The Eagles had dropped three straight to App State, eight of the last ten. The Black and Gold rode into the Paulson as the first ranked team ever to play in the stadium and looked ready to add to the streak. They rode out losers.
Shai Werts was his typical stout self at quarterback, finishing with just one completed pass — a 57-yard touchdown to Darion Anderson. It was that kind of night for the Eagles. Werts scored once more on the ground and averaged over nine yards per carry. Behind him, four different rushers got at least three carries, led by Wesley Fields’ two touchdowns and 98 yards on 18 rushes.
What all that math means is this:
Think about this, long-time fans: The Eagles just dominated an FBS Top 25 team at home. That sentence was the stuff of message board pipe dreams a decade ago.
Since this is college football, the focus will quickly turn to next week, and the number one question now is whether or not Georgia Southern gets its own place in the AP Top 25. It sports the same number of losses App State did last week (one), to pair with two more wins. What’s more, the game being on a Thursday night likely means a lot more voters tuned in than usual. If the Eagles keep winning, it’s going to happen sooner rather than later.
Did I mention Georgia Southern’s defense? The Mountaineers came in to this game averaging nearly 45 points per contest, and tonight got exactly one score before the game got out of hand.
Shoutout to Tyler Bass as well. GS has an outstanding kicker y’all, who has made 11 straight field goals and doesn’t care if he’s got to boot the ball off a Yeti cooler in the tailgate lot. If there are yellow uprights within a mile he will find them.
That’s to say nothing of head coach Chad Lunsford. How is it even possible a team finishing 2-10 just one year ago sits 7-1 and on the cusp of its first-ever national ranking? And with essentially the same players?
Georgia Southern still has four regular season games left to play in 2018. The team will take them one at a time. I’m a fan so I can speculate and say that of the four, only Troy should present a real challenge and there is a very good chance the Sun Belt’s first-ever title game will be hosted in Paulson Stadium.
For now, let’s enjoy the win. You know what to do.