The Georgia Southern Eagles can become bowl eligible with a win on Thursday at Sun Belt Conference foe Louisiana. If the Eagles are victorious Thursday night on national television (7:30 p.m. on ESPN2), they’ll have the minimum number of six wins required for postseason play with two more games (Marshall, Appalachian State) still to play. That’s a big deal for a team that many were expecting to finish near the bottom of the SBC before the season began
GS (5-4, 2-3) had a chance to clinch a sixth win last week in Statesboro versus South Alabama, and the Eagles looked like they were well on their way to doing just that. They led 24-17 at halftime and 31-17 midway through the third quarter. USA (7-2, 4-1) responded by scoring 21 unanswered points to win 38-31. Against a Southern defense that has been suspect (to put it nicely) for most of the season, South Alabama tallied 514 yards of offense while rushing for 321 yards.
It was the first-ever win in Statesboro for the Jaguars. On Thursday, GS can earn its first win over Louisiana since 2017. The Eagles are 1-4 against the Ragin’ Cajuns all-time and last year’s 28-20 UL win in Statesboro was the final game for then head coach Chad Lunsford, who was fired hours after the September setback.
It’s a big game. It’s a chance for GS head coach Clay Helton to get his team bowl eligible before things begin to get nervy against Marshall and App State. Southern fans don’t want to deal with having to win one of the last two to get into a bowl. Who could blame them? This season began with little expectation, even from a fan base that expects a lot. But once the Eagles got to five wins with four more games still remaining and before November had even arrived, expectations were rightfully raised.
If GS can’t manage to win one of its final three games, the season shifts from being a nice story – a good start to a new era of Georgia Southern football where passing is king – into a frustrating failure. This season, they’ve already beat a Power 5 team (Nebraska) for the first time since the program moved up to the FBS level in 2014 and they’ve beat a top-25 team (James Madison) on top of that. To do those things and still not make a bowl game? Well, that would be extremely tough for GS fans to accept.
“When I walked in the locker room (following the South Alabama loss) I couldn’t hear anything. You didn’t hear even a whisper,” said Helton on Monday in Statesboro. “And I told them ‘Men I commend you, because that’s what losing is supposed to sound like. It is supposed to hurt and it should make you mad and I can see that’s where you are at right now.’
“So I expect them to come in this week with their jaw set, and fight like hell to go get bowl eligible against a good Louisiana team Thursday night.”
There you have it. Last week in Statesboro there were sounds of silence. This week on the Bayou, the Eagles can make plenty of noise with a victory.
The Georgia High School Association has done it again. The first round of the GHSA’s state football playoffs are set to begin on Friday (Nov. 11) across the state. Also scheduled for Friday? The first date that GHSA teams can play regular season basketball games. (It’s also Veteran’s Day, in case you didn’t know.) Now, why a statewide athletic association would put those two things on the same exact day is beyond me. Couldn’t the first day of basketball games be on November 10? Or November 12? Or any other day of the year besides the one when the state football playoffs begin. It’s the little things, man.
The Savannah Ghost Pirates (5-1) play back-to-back home games at EnMarket Arena this weekend in ECHL play. Savannah hosts the defending Kelly Cup Champion Florida Everblades (4-1) on Thursday night before taking on the South Carolina Stingrays (5-1) on Friday. Through the franchise’s first six games, 11 different Ghost Pirates have scored a goal. Savannah began this week tied for first place in the South Division alongside the Stingrays.
Follow Travis Jaudon on Twitter/Instagram @JaudonSports. Email him at travisLjaudon@gmail.com.