With the 2019 regular season in the books for Georgia Southern football, it’s time to reflect on one of the strangest college football seasons I’ve ever followed up-close as a member of the media.
And because I’m a lunatic, I’m typing this up at 12:03am in the WSAV sports office following their 38-10 win over Georgia State. Maybe hammering out some immediate thoughts will help these last three months make more sense.
OK: let’s look at just a handful of the events that could have justifiably sunk the Eagles campaign at any point…
-Shai Werts is wrongfully arrested in South Carolina by an overzealous state trooper who mistook bird poop for cocaine, is initially suspended but has the penalty revoked when the truth emerges
-Oklahoma State transfer J.D. King isn’t officially cleared to play by the NCAA until less than two weeks before the season opener
-Shai Werts gets injured in the first half of that season opener at LSU, forcing redshirt freshman Justin Tomlin into the starting role
-Following the loss to LSU and an eight point win against Maine, Southern leads Minnesota on the road but blows the lead with 15 seconds left and loses, followed up by backbreaking loss to Louisiana, completing the dreaded (and predicted) 1-3 start
-Freshman lineman Jordan Wiggins tragically takes his own life
-RB1 Logan Wright gets injured and is ruled out for the rest of the regular season
-After a magical upset win at Appalachian State which knocks their rivals out of the Top 25, the Eagles go on the road to Troy and suffer an embarrassing three touchdown loss, blowing the inside track they had earned to the Eastern Division championship
And yet, despite that adversity and more, they just finished the regular season with 7 wins, beating the Vegas over/under total that was set at 6.5 in August. It almost seems impossible until you look at the final tallies.
So…how do you explain it?
Heart, I guess? The conscious choice they make, week in and week out, to battle back when the chips are down?
But even that doesn’t seem quite accurate. Because for all the praise this team deserves, they’ve also been maddeningly inconsistent; winning games they should lose, and losing games they should win. People ask me all the time what I think about upcoming games because they want to gamble on college football, and all year I’ve told those people to bet on teams that can be well understood, because I sure as heck couldn’t make heads or tails of what this team was going to look like any given Saturday.
And maybe that’s the charm of this year’s Georgia Southern football team: unlucky, predictably flawed and too easily duped into riding the wave of emotion…and yet, you love them all the more for it, because they’ll surprise you with a hope-affirming win when you least expect it.