Preview: Life after Summers begins at Troy

Troy quarterback Brandon Silvers looks for a receiver against South Alabama.

McClain Baxley and Thomas Jilk

Last year’s game between Georgia Southern and Troy is one that fans and players on both teams have not forgotten.

In a game that could have clinched their sixth Sun Belt championship, the 10-3 Trojans were upset by BJ Johnson and GS, which was 4-7 heading into that game, on senior day at Paulson Stadium.

This year’s game has a lot less on the line, but will be a huge test for the Eagles, who are 26-point underdogs.


Silvers Shining

Senior quarterback Brandon Silvers is no stranger to the spotlight. In 2014, he was named to the Sun Belt Conference Newcomer Team and set the NCAA Freshman Completion Percentage Record (70 percent).

The following year he received an All-Sun Belt Honorable Mention before making the All-Sun Belt First Team last season. Against the reigning national champions, Clemson, he threw for over 200 yards and 2 touchdowns.

This year Silvers is continuing the trend of picking up yards as he’s already eclipsed 1,800 yards in just seven games.

With five different receivers already accumulating over 150 yards, the Trojans could have a field day against the Eagles’ secondary.

Stopping the Run

Troy’s defense has done a fantastic job of being able to slow down their opponent’s run game.

This was shown most effectively in one of their biggest wins in program history, a win over LSU back in September. LSU, who has one of the best running games in the SEC, was held to just 162 total rushing yards.

The Trojans are allowing a mere 92 rushing yards a game. That’s seventh nationally.

And they’re facing a GSU team this week that has yet to find its’ rushing identity. If Troy’s front line can continue to manhandle the opposing o-lines, it’ll be a long game for Georgia Southern.

Reaping Revenge

As alluded to earlier, the Eagles stole a potential Sun Belt title from Troy in 2016.

Had the Trojans won the season finale in Statesboro, they would’ve shared the Sun Belt championship with Arkansas State and App State. The win would’ve also launched them into a better bowl game.

In a senior-led performance, the Eagles pulled an upset and sent the 2016 senior class off with a win.

Saturday is Troy’s chance to get revenge and officially kick Georgia Southern out of a bowl game. A win also keeps them at only one conference loss with a very easy remainder of their schedule.


Lunsford era begins

As Chad Lunsford prepares for his first game as the head coach of GS, he faces some daunting challenges in turning the on-field performance around.

“This season has not gone the way we want it to go,” Lunsford said. “We’ve got to run the ball effectively and be efficient in the pass game.”

Lunsford talked about how the Eagles continually have beat themselves this year with penalties, fumbles and the like. The Eagles have committed 14 turnovers through six games, a number which could be more if they hadn’t recovered many of their own fumbles.

The Eagles will certainly focus on avoiding ejections via targeting penalties or loss of composure as they experienced against UMass and Arkansas State. Many of these errors perhaps came after some team members were not all on the same page, an issue Lunsford said he will try to erase.

“It’s all about trying to make sure that the team is unified,” Lunsford said. “You never want the Eagles to beat the Eagles.”

That notion begins on defense for GS, where the Eagles gave up 33 first downs and 670 total yards at UMass. Defensive coordinator Lorenzo Costantini’s unit will need to step up if GS wants to put itself in position to grab its first win of 2017.

Quarterback query

GS offensive coordinator Bryan Cook told the Savannah Morning News’ Nathan Deen that Kado Brown earned the right to play with his two-touchdown performance against UMass.

Brown will step in more if Shai Werts is unable to go on Saturday, a matter which Lunsford said on Monday was still up in the air.

“I expect Shai to be our quarterback,” Lunsford said on Monday, “as long as he’s healthy and ready to roll.”

But on Tuesday, Deen published a story in which Cook said, “I think [Brown] earned an opportunity to play moving forward. How we manage that, we’ll see.”

This could set up a situation going forward where both Brown and Werts see action in the manner that Kevin Ellison and Favian Upshaw split time last season.

Game details

The game at Troy on Saturday will be broadcast on ESPN3 at 3:30 p.m. and will as usual be on the Georgia Southern Sports Radio Network.