Offsides with The Signal’s sports editor

McClain Baxley

Georgia Southern has lost three straight to their in-state rival, Georgia State. Ahead of Saturday’s season finale, GSU’s student newspaper, The Signal, sat down with us to talk the rivalry game and give their thoughts.

What has been the main difference from last year’s bowl winning team to this years two win team?

One word: defense. This defense has played maybe one complete game all season. Last season, the defense was the strength of Georgia State. This season, Panther fans can’t stand watching them try to stop opposing quarterbacks. It’s interesting that one of the Panthers’ best defensive games was against Kennesaw State, a spread offense that prefers to run the ball.

The biggest name on the Panthers is Penny Hart, preseason All-American. How have teams been able to hold him to just two touchdowns?

Double teams have really limited Hart this season. He’s receiving the attention from opposing defenses that national awards should have given him in 2017. Hart wasn’t targeted a ton to begin the season either.

What’s the census with the student body this season after the great success of last year?

Drawing students to games is a longtime struggle of Georgia State Athletics. Student attendance lacked last year, and more of the same continued this season, although a slightly better. But there’s no doubt that this season has been a disappointment to the students.

Is there a lot of confidence heading into GSU’s last game of the season?

There is optimism that Georgia State will win, but do not get it confused with confidence. Fans understand that it’s a long shot for the Panthers to win. The hope is that it’s a rivalry game and the unexpected will happen.

What have been the biggest factors for the Panthers on defense?

Injuries mounted up early in the season, but bad tackling and questionable play-calling has done plenty of a damage. The Panthers started only freshmen in the secondary for a large part of the season to put the youth of the defense into perspective. But some key contributors to last year’s defense haven’t had nearly the same success.

What’s your prediction for the game?

Georgia Southern should be able to easily win this game. That has been, however, the expectation for the majority of the rivalry, and Georgia State leads it 3-1. The Eagles are one of the FBS’ best in turnover margin, and Georgia State forces turnovers at a snail’s pace.

The Panthers haven’t impressed and the Eagles have impressed. Eagle fans will help Georgia State Stadium see its first actual sellout of the season and witness a 38-14 Georgia Southern win.

McClain Baxley, The George-Anne Sports Editor, [email protected]