The last time the Eagles faced the Minutemen of the University of Massachusetts was in the 1999 FCS quarterfinals where Georgia Southern won 38-21 to move on to eventually win their fifth national championship.
18 years later, both programs are now in the FBS and neither team has a win this season.
UMass has been in the league since 2012, but didn’t receive the same welcoming as the Eagles. The Minutemen are an incredible 8-40 in FBS and have started off to a 0-6 2017 season.
So how are the Eagles going to get their first win of the season?
Questions at quarterback
After starting quarterback Shai Werts went down on the final play against NMSU, Tyson Summers announced that the redshirt freshman is questionable.
“Shai does have an injury and is in a position where at the end of the week we will make a decision,” Summers said. “We’ve got guys that are ready to go.”
One of those guys is redshirt junior Kado Brown. Brown is a transfer from Moorpark College, but only has appeared in the Indiana game this season where he picked up 13 total yards on six plays. It was interesting last Saturday when he took the majority of pregame snaps, but didn’t see any game time.
With the banged up Werts being 0-5 as a starter and only averaging 156 yards a game, Kado Brown or even third string LaBaron Anthony could see significant playing time.
Secondary seizing the stage
In all five games for the Eagles thus far there has been one constant variable- Georgia Southern’s secondary has been inconsistent. Statistically each week the defense has given up more passing yards than the week before, highlighted by the 400 yards let up against the Aggies last Saturday.
More than half of the touchdowns allowed have been through the air. And they now face a UMass team who averages 300 yards and two touchdowns passing a game. Slowing down and getting pressure on junior quarterback Andrew Ford will be key for the Eagles.
Winning away from Paulson
Under Tyson Summers, the Eagles are 2-8 when they aren’t playing in the Prettiest Little Stadium in America. Summers actually has yet to win a non-conference game on the road, and this might be his best opportunity to do so.
McGuirk Alumni Stadium in Hadley, Massachusetts doesn’t compare to historic and intimidating Jordan-Hare or Memorial Stadium in Bloomingtom, Indiana. However, it will be homecoming in New England so that may add to the loudness of the afternoon.
UMass, back to pass
The 0-6 Minutemen have not lost a single game by more than ten points so far. They lost, 13-17, to Tennessee in Knoxville less than a month ago. They lost to the Sun Belt’s Coastal Carolina, 28-38, in their second game this season.
Last week, they fell in a shootout, 50-58, to 5-2 Ohio University. The Minutemen may be 0-6, but they are clearly no slouch.
Ford has thrown for 12 touchdowns against only two interceptions this year, and he has completed 63 percent of his passes. Senior tight end Adam Breneman leads the Minutmen in receiving with 500 yards and a 14-yard-per-catch average.
On defense, graduate student linebacker Bryton Barr has racked up 56 total tackles, while senior defensive end Da’Sean Downey leads the team in sacks with three and tackles for a loss with 7.5.
The Minutemen have already given up 1,182 yards on the ground to opponents this season, a promising sign for the run-heavy Eagles. UMass has allowed opponents 4.9 yards per carry so far this season.
The game could potentially turn into a back-and-forth offensive affair, since the Eagles have found success in the running game the past few games and the Minutemen have a dynamic passing game.
Neither defense is particularly impressive, but GS has some playmakers on that side of that ball that, if they step up, could force turnovers that may make the difference in the game.
For the Minutemen to fall to 0-7 on their homecoming, the GS defense will need to stifle a prolific passing attack, something they haven’t accomplished yet this season.
The game will kick off at 3:30 p.m. and may be accessible only by radio for some in the Statesboro area. It will air on Georgia Southern Sports Radio as well as the Eleven Sports television network.
Find out how to watch on Eleven by clicking here.