Reflecting on 2016 Football Season: A Tough Pill To Swallow

Devin Conway

Here’s To New Beginnings 

Georgia Southern football was certainly expected to endure some growing pains after former head coach Willie Fritz accepted an offer to coach at Tulane. The Eagles decided to bring in Colorado State defensive coordinator Tyson Summers, a 36-year-old defensive guru who helped coach the University of Central Florida to back-to-back conference championships as a defensive coordinator in 2013 and 2014, to lead the transition as the new head coach. 

Following a surprising 3-0 start, GS lost 7 out of 8, including a blowout loss at home to rival Appalachian State and an embarrassing defeat to a 2-8 Georgia State team that had recently fired their head coach, before finishing the season off with a redeeming home win versus an extremely talented Troy team.

Their 5-7 record was good for 6th in the Sun Belt, which was certainly a disappointing result for Eagle fans that had high expectations following last year’s 9-4 season. It was an impressive year capped off by a 58-27 blowout win versus Bowling Green in the Eagles’ first ever bowl appearance.

There were times during the season when GS played up to their full potential, like the aforementioned Troy game and a surprisingly competitive road loss to SEC powerhouse Ole Miss, but those moments were fleeting. 

Something’s Missing

As any Eagle fan can testify, GS just didn’t pass the eye test this season. As the weeks went by, there was an unshakable feeling that something just wasn’t right with this team. 

They failed to execute the flashy run and gun offense that led the nation in rushing yards per game in 2015. The two featured backs from last season, Matt Breida and L.A. Ramsby, saw steep declines in their production, and the newly instituted expansion of the passing game rarely paid off.

The defense seemed to lack discipline, as they gave up 30+ points in six of 12 games, and they could never seem to get the stops the team needed in critical moments.

I can’t help but think back to the Arkansas State game, where the Eagles led 26-20 with 1:53 left in the fourth quarter. Arkansas State had the ball at their own 24 yard line on a fourth down, with sixteen yards to go pick up the first down. Justice Hansen managed to scramble for 18 yards and pick up a first down before throwing a game-tying eight yard touchdown with eight seconds left. Arkansas State then hit an extra point to take a 27-26 lead and seal a victory. 

The frustration Eagle fans felt following that loss, a game in which GS actually won the turnover margin by five, was indicative of what was to come for the rest of the year. 

Crunching The Numbers

Not only did the Eagles look bad to the casual fan, they performed poorly statistically as well. 

Of 128 teams, GS finished 52nd in scoring defense, 78th in scoring offense, 58th in total defense, 91st in total offense, 69th in passing defense, 117th in passing offense and 124th in team sacks. 

Failing to get pressure on the opposing quarterback while simultaneously struggling to move the ball on the offensive side is a recipe for disaster for any football program. 

Tyson Summers and his staff simply failed to get the job done. The Eagles had just one impressive win on the season, and a number of disappointing losses. I’d like to be able to look forward to next season with a sense of hope and optimism, but I’m not quite sure that will be possible with Summers still on the sidelines.