With clear eyes and playing in primetime for the first time in 2018, Eagles can’t lose game against struggling Texas State

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  • Freshman nose tackle C.J. Wright and sophomore Raymand Johnson III celebrate a fumble in the 48-13 win over South Alabama. 

  • With the 48-13 win over South Alabama, Chad Lunsford is now 6-5 as head coach of the Eagles. 

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McClain Baxley

When the game against South Alabama went final and the Eagles walked on the field having claimed their fourth win of the year, excitement was spotty. A week before the same team stormed the field after a then-upset victory over Arkansas State with excitement and ecstatic celebration.

The players and coaching staff walked onto the field with a look and demeanor that they weren’t done yet.

“It’s not that we were expecting to win, but we’re more focused on ourselves,” senior running back Monteo Garrett said after the game. “We do what we’re supposed to do and everything will just take care of itself.”

Georgia Southern took care of their work by way of a 48-13 bludgeoning of the Jaguars, but now for the first time this season, they’re tested with a conference game on the road.

The focus was quickly shifted from the two Sun Belt wins at home with the next game on the docket being a Thursday night showdown in the Lonestar State against 1-4 Texas State.

The Bobcats have lost their past six conference games and are 3-14 in the past two seasons. San Marcos is staring at nearly the same situation Statesboro was this time a year ago.

Signs and petitions have been created by Bobcat faithful for the firing of their athletic director Larry Teis and the football team has suffered consecutive 2-10 seasons.

But the Eagles are using their 2017 experience to their advantage to avoid overlooking the Bobcats.

“We can’t get validated too early,” sophomore defensive end Raymand Johnson III said. “It’s always good to get two wins and it feels good to win, but we can’t get complacent. Each and every week we have to keep on attacking.”

The Eagles have won twice as many games as they did last year and are tied for the top team in the Sun Belt, so it’d be easy to look forward to get revenge next week at New Mexico state or even further down the road to rival Appalachian State.

But as head coach Chad Lunsford has said time and time again, they haven’t proven anything yet. And the 4-1 Eagles aren’t champions until they’ve earned it.

The Eagles have only played a team from Texas five times, and have only lost once—the 2005 Division I-AA first round against TSU. Since then, the Eagles have tamed the Bobcats twice with an average score of 32.5-19.

In 2015, GS clinched their first bowl appearance by defeating TSU in Statesboro for their sixth win of the season.

GS’ other two victories over teams from the Lonestar State were just as if not more pivotal as the bowl-clinching 2015 victory. Both wins coming against Stephen F. Austin.

The Eagles and Lumberjacks first met on the gridiron in the 1988 I-AA quarterfinals. GS hosted the team from Austin in a 27-6 win on their way to a national runner-up.

The next season, the two teams met in the national championship where the Eagles were victorious again, but in a tighter 37-34 victory.

Offensive coordinator Bob DeBesse has had quite a history with TSU, playing for the Bobcats from 1978-1980 at what was then Southwest Texas State. DeBesse went back and coached for his alma mater for six years from 1997-2002.

In order to leave Thursday’s game with a victory, it will be on DeBesse to continue letting redshirt-sophomore quarterback Shai Werts run the offense with ease and confidence.

Werts has been nearly unstoppable through five games in DeBesse’s offense averaging nearly 91 rushing yards a game to compliment his 72 passing yards per game. In his second year leading the GS offense, Werts is leading the Sun Belt in scoring with eight total touchdowns on the year.

As great as the offense has been, it’s the defense who has had three players of the week and are allowing fewer than 20 points per game.

With an unbeatable secondary led by junior cornerbacks Monquavion Brinson and Kindle Vildor and a stout defensive line, the defense has been a force all season.  

The Eagles have forced 12 turnovers while giving up just one, compared to the Bobcats coming away with 10 turnovers and giving up just as many.

It shouldn’t be a completely sloppy game weather wise, but the Eagles defense could have a field day with the lack of any serious TSU offensive production.

At the end of the game, the Eagles will return to Statesboro, the city that is looking like it’s going to avoid another hurricane and the sun’s going to come the next morning.

Kickoff from San Marcos is set for 7:30 p.m. EST. The game is being televised on ESPNU.

McClain Baxley, The George-Anne Sports Editor, gasports@georgiasouthern.edu