After losing their last Southern Conference game of the season on Saturday 31-28, the Georgia Southern University Eagles will have to wait a week until knowing their postseason destiny.
A win would have given GSU a SoCon title and favorable chances to host their first playoff game in Statesboro.
Instead, the Eagles will have to wait and see how the rest of the SoCon teams finish off their conference play. The Eagles will still have a share of the SoCon title with Appalachian State University, Wofford College or the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
Going forward, the Eagles will host Howard University for homecoming in a must-win scenario in order to secure the most favorable postseason scenario as possible.
Instead of winning the game and securing an automatic bid for the SoCon title, the Eagles struggled to take App. State out of the game on Saturday, which ultimately lost the game for the Eagles.
The Eagles were up 21-10 early, thanks in large part to an impressive day by junior B-back William Banks, who scored career-high three touchdowns by halftime. He was held out of the endzone during the second half but finished the day with 129 rushing yards off 19 carries.
After the impressive start by GSU, App. State battled back to take a 24-21 lead going into halftime.
During the day, the defensive line played well, sacking App. State QB Jamal Jackson four times and holding the Mountaineers to just 70 yards rushing on the day, but the Eagle defense failed to play as a whole.
The GSU secondary gave up 11 passes during the game that resulted in first downs for App. State, and a freshman Mountaineer receiver, Sean Price, had a monstrous day after catching the ball seven times for 231 yards and a touchdown.
Going forward, the Eagles are going to have to sure up their secondary, especially going into the playoffs. Jackson threw for a career-high 383 yards and three touchdowns on the GSU defense on Saturday.
If the Eagles had made just one of their three field goal attempts, the game would have been a whole different story. Freshman kicker Alex Hanks missed two field goals in the first half, and one of them would have sent GSU to the lockers at halftime in a tie ballgame, leading to a completely different halftime speech.
All of Hank’s field goal attempts were from within 30 yards.
Whatever was said at halftime appeared to work for the Eagles and on the first GSU possession of the second half the Eagles drove 12 plays down the field to retake the lead 28-24.
Unfortunately for the Eagles, that’s the only touchdown they scored in the second half. Thanks to questionable calls made by the officials, missed field goals, impressive mountaineer defense on the edges and some tough penalties down the stretch, all App. State had to do was score a touchdown to win.
The Eagle offense had a chance to score another touchdown that would’ve provided a positive difference on the scoreboard halfway through the third quarter. App. State fumbled the ball on their own 22 yard line, and all junior quarterback Jerick McKinnon and the Eagles needed to do was take advantage of the short field in the red zone.
While McKinnon tallied 121 yards on the ground and 106 yards through the air, the magic didn’t seem to work on that drive. GSU only scored 50 percent of the six times it appeared in the redzone, and on this possession, the Eagles were stuffed at the 10 yard line, which led to Hanks missing his third field goal of the day.
Head coach Jeff Monken’s apparent frustration with the kicking game seemed to influence his play selection when the game was on the line.
With 1:35 to go in the game, the Eagles were sustaining a 6:53 second drive that could have put GSU on top of the Mountaineers, and the game came down to a fourth and four from the App. State 22.
Instead of kicking the field goal that would’ve tied the game, Monken and his staff went for it. The Eagles made it after an exciting play by sophomore A-back Tray Butler, but the team was called on one of its most devastating penalties of the season, a 15-yard offensive facemask penalty.
From there, Monken and his staff could have either gone for a 48-yard field goal or gone for it on fourth and 16. Monken went for it, and McKinnon threw an interception that sealed the win for the Mountaineers.