Paulson Stadium at Georgia Southern is being prepared to be a big Halloween party for Thursday night’s game against Texas State. But if you ask Eagle fans, the real house of horrors happened last Thursday at Appalachian State.
In front of a national TV audience, Georgia Southern’s offense could not get going against App State, being held to less than half of its nation-leading average of 399 rushing yards per game in a 31-13 loss that ended the Eagles’ 11-game Sun Belt Conference winning streak and put their chances of repeating as SBC champs in jeopardy.
Matt Breida, the star of GSU’s running attack, was held to only 78 yards on 14 carries, way below his average of 136.9 yards per game. Before the game, he was the top rusher in the nation. Now, Breida is seventh with 136.9 yards per game and is a darkhorse pick to win the Doak Walker Award.
Breida and quarterback Kevin Ellison were held in check by an App State defense that blitzed and did not let either Breida or Ellison loose for big yardage. Ellison only had 46 yards on 10 carries.
Head coach Willie Fritz gave credit to the Mountaineer defense for figuring out the Eagle option attack. “They did a good job of playing on our side of the ball and were very well schooled in the option,” he said to GSEagles.com. “When you play a quality opponent like them, you have to play well.”
Now Southern must regroup against a Texas State squad coming off of an impressive win over South Alabama on Saturday, who had an impressive 36-18 win over South Alabama. The Bobcats were led by running back Robert Lowe, who rushed for a career-best 248 yards on 30 carries. Lowe’s effort led him to being named the SBC offensive player of the week.
The Eagles may look at Lowe’s big night and be a little concerned, especially in how their run defense played on Thursday. App State ran for 231 yards as the Mountaineers used a trio of backs to run through the Georgia Southern defense.
But even if Texas State can move the ball against the Eagles, an offensive shootout would be in favor to Georgia Southern because the Bobcat defense has been porous all season. The Bobcats give up 288 rushing yards per game, next to last in the SBC. Texas State is also dead last in pass defense, but that may be canceled out by the fact that the Eagles average 65.9 passing yards per game, next to last among FBS teams.
Georgia Southern still has a path to the Sun Belt title, but only if Appalachian State can falter in a couple of games. But if the Eagles win on Thursday night, they will be bowl eligible and likely on their way to their first-ever bowl game in the program’s history.
While the Eagle fans will celebrate the Halloween holiday seeing their team play at Paulson, they may have even more fun watching them play in either New Orleans, Orlando or in Alabama during the Christmas holidays.