8 months and 30 days had gone by since we last saw Georgia Southern on the gridiron. In that time 23 seniors graduated, one linebacker declared early for the NFL draft, a couple of assistant coaches left, and most glaringly, one new offensive coordinator took the place of two from 2016. During the offseason, I had countless conversations with friends about what to expect in 2017. Some were convinced that Georgia Southern would be no better than the 5-7 season they were coming off because Tyson Summers was still at the helm. Others sold me on the fact that things would be drastically better because Rance Gillespie and David Dean were not-so-politely asked to get out of town, and Bryan Cook (who spells his first name proper by the way) was going to swoop in and save the day. To shoot straight, I honestly had no idea what to expect. Again, when you sit down and look at it from a fan standpoint, you can certainly see both sides of the argument. That said, I was cautiously optimistic I reckon, but didn’t want to get my hopes up too much because I’m tired of seeing them get destroyed by my favorite teams (Thanks a lot, Falcons). So, all that to say, “we’re Georgia Southern, we’re supposed to win,” but against a top 25 opponent with a stout defense, I was hoping for a solid showing and a possible upset.
By now, most of you have read about how Saturday ended up; the “solid showing” I was looking for was pretty much the exact opposite of that. I don’t know if it was a mix of Auburn being THAT good on defense, which is entirely possible, or Georgia Southern being THAT bad on offense, also entirely possible, see: 2016. Hell, the 2016 offense would have been welcomed with open arms had it magically presented itself on Saturday. For those of of you who may be wondering, GS didn’t make it into the positive category of total yards until 6:24 left to go in the half, and even then the total yards were an astonishing two, count ’em, TWO. I get that nerves were a factor for all the kids, especially Redshirt Freshman Shai Werts. I couldn’t imagine starting my first game in front of a sold out SEC stadium, and in prime-time at that. I’ve seen the kid practice, he’s going to be fine, I just think nerves, coupled with a really, really good defense got the best of him and the rest of the team on Saturday, and then it just snowballed from there.
It would be easy to sit here and pick apart everything that I didn’t like about Saturday’s performance, and as someone who had an up-close seat, it would be very easy to do so. I didn’t throw in the “up-close seat” part to brag about where I watched the game, I included it to lead me to my next point. Auburn’s players were simply bigger, faster, and stronger. They controlled both lines of scrimmage, handily, from whistle to whistle. Their linebackers came off blocks as good as any team I’ve seen us play. Time will tell if it was simply poor blocking by our guys, or their guys just being superior. I know Erk’s old adage was “Runts try harder” but our guys were simply outmatched I’m afraid. That doesn’t mean it’s OK to lose, far from it. Sometimes you just have to tip your cap to the other team, it happens. The sheer fact that GS was in the game at halftime is pretty impressive considering how bad the stat sheet looked. Had it not been for a field goal that clanked off the left upright, it’s a 7 point game going into the locker room at the half. I know the final score wasn’t indicative of their performance, but the defense kept up their end of the bargain until late in the 3rd when they were simply gassed. Which was probably caused by the offense going 0-15 on 3rd down conversions, and 12 or 13 of those were three-and-outs. Think about that for a second…Never mind, don’t think about that at all.
I’ve had another Erk-ism in my head since the final whistle Saturday, and it’s FIDO. If you don’t know what that acronym stands for, ask a friend. Losses like that happen. It stinks, but it’s true. Auburn had all summer to prepare for the triple option (we’ll debate if any triple options were actually ran Saturday in my next column), and played disciplined football. It’s time to learn from the mistakes that were made, and move on. Harping over how bad some of the stats actually were will do you no good. Believe me, I used to be that guy who would stew over a loss for days and all it helped me do was start getting gray hair before any of my friends. I doubt New Hampshire’s defense will look anything like Auburn’s, and I also doubt Georgia Southern’s play calling will be as vanilla as what we saw on the Plains. If either one of those two things happen, however, Tyson Summers and company may see the fan base that was quick to rally around his offseason hires, turn on them again.
I read recently that we spend 85% of our time worrying about things that never actually happen. I’m going to try my darndest this week to not worry about what might happen on Saturday- again, early graying. I’m also not going to try and think about what happened the last time New Hampshire came to Statesboro. It was 2004, and that game was one of the most absolute miserable experiences I’ve ever had. Cold, rainy, I had the flu, and I drove to Statesboro from Nashville that morning to watch us lose by 4 points and get kicked out of the playoffs. (insert long sigh). Anyway, enough of the past. Let’s hope the boys come out Saturday fired up like they did in 2015 against Western Michigan after getting shut down by West Virginia the week before. It’s time to GATA, Eagles. Do your thing, Blue!