Opinion: From 2-10 to 10-3 in just one season

Ryan Kostensky is a senior journalism major from Atlanta.

Ryan Kostensky

Few fans of the Georgia Southern Eagles saw this turnaround coming, but supported their team from beginning to end. 

 Fresh off the 9-4 season in 2015, where GS won the GoDaddy Bowl for their first bowl victory in program history, Tyson Summers, the then Colorado State defensive coordinator, was tasked the job of replacing Willie Fritz who left to take the Tulane job. But this isn’t about the aforementioned Summers, who would go 5-13 and lose his job after just 18 games, but about his successor and current GS head coach, Chad Lunsford. 

Lunsford had the support from the very first press conference when he riled up Eagle Nation, telling them to show up because his team was about to show out, and Coach wasn’t wrong. After starting the 2017 campaign 0-6, Lunsford was able to go 2-4 the rest of the way, including a 52-0 drubbing of South Alabama on Senior Day. 

So how was Coach Lunsford able to turn around the sinking ship in just one season? The best answer I can give for that is the culture change. Under Summers there was very little visible culture, and the team was stagnant from the start. Lunsford would go back to the “Blue-collar” mentality that the Eagles thrived with under legendary coach Erk Russell, introducing ideas such as W.I.N. (What’s Important Now) and firing up not only his team but all of the True Blue nation with his signature pile-driving of a folding chair after each victory GS notched.

But the culture change in Statesboro wasn’t the only noticeable difference from one season to the next. With the help of a more developed and disciplined offense and defense, Lunsford and the boys showed they were out for revenge on the field as well. The GS offense set a FBS record for fewest turnovers in a season with just five, all of which were lost fumbles, which meant that redshirt-sophomore quarterback Shai Werts was the only quarterback in the nation to not record an interception in his 13 games of play.

In addition to the record, the Eagle offense led the nation with a +22 turnover margin, which was six better than the second place team.

Coach Lunsford gave Eagle Nation things they had never seen before in 2018, starting with the 34-14 beat down of then No. 25 App State on national TV, the team’s first victory over a ranked team in the FBS.

{{tncms-inline account=”Ryan Kostensky” html=”<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">EAGLES WIN! Georgia Southern tips #25 Appalachian State, 34-14 to improve to 7-1 on the season. <a href="https://t.co/jnAZBmNb1f">pic.twitter.com/jnAZBmNb1f</a></p>— Ryan Kostensky (@RyanKostensky) <a href="https://twitter.com/RyanKostensky/status/1055650386487468033?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">October 26, 2018</a></blockquote>” id=”https://twitter.com/RyanKostensky/status/1055650386487468033″ type=”twitter”}}

He also beat rival Georgia State for the first time since the first game of the series in 2013, but the pinnacle of the season came December 15 in Montgomery, Alabama, where a Tyler Bass game-winning 40-yard field goal gave the program their first 10-win season in the FBS, as well as their second bowl victory, a 23-21 score over Eastern Michigan. 

{{tncms-inline account=”Captain” html=”<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">10-3 in first full year as head coach. Second bowl win in history. <a href="https://twitter.com/chadlunsford?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@chadlunsford</a> takes a picture with his family. He’s sure as hell earned it. <a href="https://t.co/4pVlnaVAlS">pic.twitter.com/4pVlnaVAlS</a></p>— Captain (@McclainBaxley) <a href="https://twitter.com/McclainBaxley/status/1074138822978486272?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">December 16, 2018</a></blockquote>” id=”https://twitter.com/McclainBaxley/status/1074138822978486272″ type=”twitter”}}

The 2019 season is far away, but will be a daunting challenge, with one of the toughest schedules the Eagles have ever put together, but if anyone can get the job done, it’ll be Coach Chad Lunsford and the rest of his coaching staff.

Ryan Kostensky, The George-Anne Sports Reporter, [email protected]