It seemed like deja vu for the Eagles this weekend, as they fell to Arkansas State on the road 38-33.
The Eagles are now 6-5 on the season and their hopes of the conference championship are now thoughts better suited for next season. Many Southern fans hoped that the Eagles would take care of business against Arkansas State on the road and then come home to take care of Georgia State the following weekend, in hopes that the now Sun Belt East division champions App State would drop a game against one of their remaining opponents. This scenario would’ve given Southern another shot at the conference title game. Instead, Southern fans are lowering their expectations in hopes that the Eagles will be selected by a bowl committee if they finish at 7-5 or 6-6.
The Eagles didn’t help their case for a bowl game during their most recent contest against the Red Wolves this weekend. In the first half, this game looked very familiar to the Eagles’ defeat at Troy on the road, in which the defense looked unprepared and totally at a loss for what they needed to do.
Arkansas State QB Layne Hatcher destroyed the Georgia Southern secondary, with 354 yards passing and four touchdowns, while completing 19 of his 24 attempts. The Southern defense was fed a steady diet of Kirk Merritt, Omar Bayless, and Jonathan Adams Jr, who all three combined for 312 receiving yards. Arkansas State RB Jamal Jones toted the rock fairly well for the offense, as he had 74 yards on 10 carries. However, the Red Wolves’ offensive efforts would stall in the second half, as the Eagles began their valiant come back that eventually fell short.
With all of the missed assignments and poor coverage that came from the Southern defense in the first half, the second half was a different story. The defense came out of the locker room in the second half with a second wind and only allowed three points for the remainder of the game.
Along with the defense, Southern QB Shai Werts showed his toughness and his warrior-like mentality, as he took hit after hit on his way to a three touchdown evening. Werts finished the game with 175 yards passing, completing 14 of his 24 attempts. Werts also had 151 yards rushing on 19 carries, while finding the end zone once. WR Mark Michaud led the Eagles in receiving, with two touchdowns on six receptions that were worth 96 total yards.
Although the Eagles’ come back came up short by a few inches on a 4th down conversion effort by none other than Shai Werts, Georgia Southern never gave up and continued to scratch and claw their way back into this game until the very end.
The Eagles will set out to have a good week of preparation, correct what needs to be corrected, and be ready for their huge regular season wrap up against in-state and conference rival Georgia State under the lights in Paulson Stadium.
Arkansas State will look to finish 8-4 on the season, as they will face South Alabama this weekend on the road for a 5 pm kick-off. Like Georgia Southern, Arkansas State’s hopes for a shot in the conference championship were washed away with Louisiana’s victory over Troy this past weekend. If Arkansas State can finish out their season with a win, I see the Red Wolves playing in a bowl in either Alabama or Florida and avoiding a spot in the Arizona Bowl that they played in last season.