Last time a Georgia Southern football season began with an 0-4 record, Franklin D. Roosevelt was the president of the United States and World War II was just getting into full swing.
Not since 1941, right before GS ended its football program for more than 30 years until the Erk Russell years of the 1980s, has GS football struggled so mightily to begin a season.
The Eagles will try to channel Russell on Saturday when they don the smoke-grey alternate uniforms unveiled this past weekend that pay homage to the legendary coach.
The homecoming game will be against New Mexico State, a team ostensibly improved from last season and armed with a dangerous offense. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN3 at 6 p.m.
Scouting the Eagles
After racking up a season-high 333 rushing yards and 493 total yards last Wednesday against Arkansas State, the Eagles’ offense found a rhythm it had failed to reach in the previous three games.
With four interceptions, the GS defense forced turnovers more effectively than they have all season.
However, ASU still wound up with a decisive victory on the strength of a few big plays and key fumbles by the Eagles.
“We’ve got to cut out five or six plays on each side of the ball each night, and if we can do that, then we’re going to have a chance to be a really good football team,” GS head coach Tyson Summers said at a Monday press conference.
Summers emphasized his team’s need for consistency in all three phases of the game, referencing the importance of relying on “fundamentals.”
The Eagles’ defense will have another chance to turn its opponent over, as New Mexico State enters the game with 11 interceptions thrown already this season.
However, the GS secondary, led by sophomore corner Monquavion Brinson, will certainly be challenged as the Aggies have the 9th most passing yards of any team in the FBS this season. They will need to avoid giving up the 50+ yard passing plays that doomed them last week.
The GS running attack – spearheaded by quarterback Shai Werts and running backs Wesley Fields, L.A. Ramsby and Monteo Garrett – will have another chance at a big game. They could potentially control the tempo of the game if they can hold onto the ball and be patient behind an improving offensive line.
Summers said Garrett deserves a bigger role in the offense going forward after he sprinted 74 yards on one play for his first career touchdown last Wednesday.
“He has overcome a tremendous amount,” Summers said. “We need to find ways to get him on the field more.”
Summers said he envisioned his locker room going crazy with emotion after a breakthrough win, which he assured reporters was coming.
“When it gets turned, what I’d tell fans is it’s going to get turned in a big way, and for a long time,” he said.
He that having a young team was no excuse for starting 0-4, but that it is represented by the lack of discipline and consistency thus far.
Scouting the Aggies
The Aggies have lost three games in a row to Georgia Southern, but they have one of the best teams in New Mexico State history this season. Their 2-4 record doesn’t do them justice with losses at Arizona State, at Appalachian State, at Arkansas, and at home against 4-1 Troy.
The Aggies are led by senior quarterback Tyler Rogers who already has more than 2,100 yards passing in just six games, which is second in the nation behind only Josh “Chosen” Rosen of UCLA.
This success from Rogers is going to be a problem for the struggling GS secondary who is allowing more than 200 yards a game, including 316 yards last Wednesday against Arkansas State.
Expect Rogers to spread the wealth the same way the Red Wolves did last week as there are five different Aggies receivers averaging more than 10 yards per reception.
The defense for New Mexico State has been their weak link this year ranking 84th nationally and 5th in the Sun Belt in total defense.
Wreaking havoc for the Aggies is senior linebacker Dalton Herrington, who is averaging 10 tackles a game, tied for 10th best in the nation.
Junior linebacker Terrill Hanks also has more than 50 tackles on the season including nine for a loss. He could have opportunities to make plays wrapping up the Eagles’ running core.
While the defense has a good bit of youth on the line, the experience in the secondary and at linebacker could make it difficult for GS to get into any sort of rhythm.
The Aggies have never beaten Georgia Southern, losing the past three years. In New Mexico State’s last year in the Sun Belt, beating the Eagles for the first time would be a coveted send-off for them.
This cross country series doesn’t end on Saturday though as the two schools have already scheduled another game in Paulson on October 19, 2019.