The end of this Georgia Southern Eagles football season cannot come fast enough after the team lost, for the seventh time in eight games, to the Georgia State Panthers by a final score of 30-24.
The Eagles just lost to a team with no coach. The Eagles just lost to a team that came into the game at 2-8. The silver lining at this point, if there is one, is that only one game remains this season.
State drew first blood, marching down the field far too easily on its opening drive. Seven plays, 75 yards, 7-0 lead at 12:06 of the first quarter.
The home team began the game with a drawn-out highlight reel of last year’s win, then came out wearing black jerseys and from there it looked like that 2015 contest never stopped.
This is what Southern apparently did ahead of the kickoff:
@GSAthletics_FB captains refuse to shake hands with Panthers before kickoff. pic.twitter.com/Yaa1mwMPvR— Frank Sulkowski WJCL (@TheBigGuyWJCL) November 19, 2016
Not, not, not, not, not not not not not a good look. Not a good look at all.
UPDATE: Word is Georgia State refused to shake hands last year. I’m still not a fan, but OK.
The first State drive contained a microcosm of Georgia Southern’s entire season: The Eagle defense earned a stop on 4th and 5, but was flagged for being offside. It proved to be a seven-point penalty.
Southern then fumbled on the second play of its opening drive. That led to another seven points for the Panthers, with quarterback Conner Manning sneaking it in from a a half-yard out, and a 13-0 lead (PAT missed) halfway through the first quarter.
After that, Southern was flagged twice on the kickoff. The Eagles punted, and got flagged for offside a few plays into State’s next drive. The Panthers scored on that drive too when Manning hit Robert Davis wide open for a score. It was 20-0 just like that.
I’ll break the fourth wall a little and tell you sports writers are encouraged not to do a play-play-play for a game recap, so I apologize. It’s just hard not to when you’re watching one disaster after another unfold before your eyes.
Georgia Southern did get back into the contest though. The Eagles scored on a classic Kevin Ellison run down the middle to get on the board. I’ll never forget watching Ellison do that three seasons ago against Florida, and I hate that he’s going out on a note like this.
It was 20-7 Georgia State at the end of one quarter.
Matt Breida got just his third touchdown of the season and made it a game at 20-14. Then Jay Bowdry blocked a State field goal attempt.
At that point the game slowed down and nothing noteworthy happened the rest of the second quarter. Younghoe Koo hit a field goal as the first half expired with State leading 20-17.
At halftime, State was averaging 16.9 yards per reception. Manning was 12 of 22 for 203 yards. Those needed to change in the second half, but they did not.
The third quarter started the same way, with a 15-yard Manning throw to Glenn Smith that put Georgia State up 27-17.
Ellison went out temporarily with an injury. Then Southern fumbled on a handoff from Favian Upshaw to LA Ramsby and turned the ball over to the Panthers. The ensuing drive led to a GSU field goal. Yes, the drive was also aided by a bogus targeting call on Bowdry, but that had no impact on the outcome of this game.
Southern scored again to make it 30-24 with 4:42 to play. Upshaw lead a long drive capped off by a one-yard Ramsby run.
But that was it. The Eagles couldn’t get back on the board after that and State ran the clock out. Georgia Southern is 4-7, and Dec. 3 will be the end of the road.
What amazes me about this turned over tackle box of a season is just how fast the coaching staff tanked a talented team.
Even coaches we think of as failures tend to do okay at first. Ron Zook never won less than seven games at Florida. Mark Helfrich is practically begging Oregon to fire him, but played in a national title game his second season after taking over for Chip Kelly. Before he lost to Georgia Southern, Will Muschamp took the Gators to a Sugar Bowl after succeeding Urban Meyer.
Not here. 9-4 is looking to become 4-8 instantly, with 17 seniors, a boatload of talent and even a great recruiting class added to the mix.
Yes, there’s a game to go. Yes, anything can happen on any given Saturday. But if the Eagles do lose to Troy, there will be only one coach in the history of Georgia Southern football who performed worse than Tyson Summers in his first season. I’m not going to write his name, but the Eagles won eight regular season games the year before he arrived too.
Let’s say it again: Georgia Southern just lost to a team with no coach. Maybe that’s more than a happy coincidence.