November 06, 2012
This has been a tough pill to swallow.
After jumping out to a 14-3 lead, Georgia Southern eventually fell to archrival Appalachian State 31-28 on a picture-perfect Saturday afternoon in Statesboro.
Late in the second quarter, the Eagles led 21-10, and I remember thinking to myself that if the defense could get a stop and the offense could put together a quick-strike score, it could be 28-10 at halftime, and I could breathe pretty easily.
Well, that little plan didn’t work out at all. A few plays later, App scored on a 56-yard touchdown pass that should not have been; the receiver, Sean Price, very blatantly stepped out of bounds somewhere around midfield, but the official, who was five whole yards away, somehow didn’t see it. The play was allowed to continue, and Price took it to the house.
The Eagles fumbled the ball away on their ensuing possession, and the Mountaineers scored once again to take a 24-21 lead into the locker room. After taking a 28-24 lead early in the second half, the Eagles could not hold on in the fourth quarter. This week’s game ball goes to fullback William Banks.
Filling in for the injured Dominique Swope, Banks had 129 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries. He was huge for the Eagles; unfortunately, his effort wasn’t quite enough to pull out the win.
The fact that the Eagles lost isn’t as tough to take as the way it happened. Most everyone will place at least some blame on the officials — and to be honest, they were absolutely horrible. Not only did the Mountaineers get credit for a touchdown they didn’t deserve, there also was a sack that looked an awful lot like a safety, but it wasn’t ruled that way. There were several other questionable calls, but those two directly cost Georgia Southern nine points.
Some folks will blame the kicking game, too. The Eagles were 0-for-3 with all three attempts 26 yards or less. Ouch.
But in the end, the Eagles did not make the plays they needed to win the game. Just look one play after the safety that wasn’t: the Eagles still had the Mountaineers pinned deep, and it was third down and forever. Just get a stop and you have great field position and a ton of momentum. Instead, the defense gave up a 67-yard pass. It didn’t lead to points for App, but it sure took the wind out of the Eagles’ sails. And from the untimely penalty file:
With a lead in the fourth quarter, Southern punted it away, only to hit the return man early on a fair-catch call (15-yard penalty), then get called for unsportsmanlike conduct after the play ended (15 more yards) to give App a short field (started at the GSU 34) for what was the game-winning touchdown drive.
On its final offensive possession of the game, Southern converted a fourth-and-4 and was inside the 20-yard line with just over a minute left. But a facemask penalty pushed the Eagles back to the 34-yard line and left them with a desperation pass on fourth-and-16 that was intercepted. The game was over.
Sure, the officials were terrible, and special teams struggled. But the Eagles simply didn’t get the job done Saturday. There were a few chances to put this game away, but it didn’t happen.
The loss snaps a 14-game home winning streak for Georgia Southern and drops the Eagles to a No. 7 national ranking. One bit of good news: Wofford lost in overtime to Samford, which gives Georgia Southern at least a share of the Southern Conference championship.
Now, the Eagles must move on. Howard University comes to town this weekend for Homecoming in Statesboro. The Bison are currently 6-3 on the season and sit in third place in the MEAC conference behind Bethune-Cookman and North Carolina Central. Tattler prediction:
This should be a game the Eagles can win easily. Georgia Southern will rest some banged-up starters and win this one going away. Eagles 41, Bison 14.
Congratulations to the Georgia Southern women’s soccer team on its first Southern Conference championship in program history. The Eagles defeated Furman 5-4 in penalty kicks to win the title game Sunday afternoon. They have earned the SoCon’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. GATA, ladies!