As the regular season heads into its stretch, the Georgia Southern Eagles are ready to take on their final four games with a bit more health and plenty of rest.
Not only did the Eagles (6-2 overall, 4-1 Sun Belt Conference) enjoy an open date last weekend, but their last game was a Thursday-night contest, giving them 16 days between games leading up to Saturday’s road trip to Troy.
“We accomplished a lot,” GSU coach Willie Fritz said. “We lifted a little more than usual, and we were able to scrimmage with some of our younger guys. We were also able to give our coaches and players a couple of days off.”
The Eagles aren’t concerned with rust accumulated during the layoff and are instead focusing on the rest. Senior safety Matt Dobson injured his knee in the first half of Georgia Southern’s Oct. 17 win over New Mexico State and hasn’t seen game action since. Dobson has been making steady progress, and the team is hopeful that he’ll be in Saturday’s starting lineup.
While Dobson’s absence has been the most visible for fans, plenty of other Eagles have been playing through bumps and bruises and were thankful for the extended rest.
“That extra time helps, especially at this point in the season,” Fritz said. “In any season, the healthiest and the strongest you’re going to be is probably the day before fall camp starts. Everyone is dealing with something, so it’s a matter of resting when you can and doing whatever you can to heal up during the week.”
Bowling on the Brain
With the victory over Texas State its last time out, Georgia Southern became bowl-eligible for the first time in program history. The Eagles surpassed the six-win threshold last season, but were ineligible for bowl competition as a first-year member of the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Getting to a bowl was a main talking point for the Eagles during the preseason. There was some celebration after securing win number six, but nothing is guaranteed yet. There is a possibility of more than four Sun Belt teams becoming bowl-eligible this season — a possible problem, since the conference only has guaranteed tie-ins for four bowls.
“We haven’t gotten to any bowl yet,” Fritz said. “Our main goal right now is to finish strong, win as many games as we can and make ourselves look good for any bowl that wants to invite us.”
McGee earns promotions
The Eagles wearing helmets and pads aren’t the only ones getting extra attention as the team continues to thrive.
Late Sunday night, word broke that Dell McGee — running-backs coach at GSU over the last two seasons — will now also hold the title of assistant head coach. As a key architect of the Eagles’ nation-leading rushing attack (which hasn’t had the benefit of a senior in the backfield in either season), it was clear that McGee was deserving of some added recognition.
“Most programs have someone as an assistant head coach,” Fritz said. “We looked at Dell and the great job he’s done for us. He’s also the only other coach on the staff with previous head-coaching experience. Mostly, we feel like he does a great job with our players on and off the field.”
Fritz added that he was happy to bestow the label on McGee, even if it might make him a more-attractive candidate for a school looking to hire him away.
“All of our coaches work extremely hard,” Fritz said. “Maybe their goal is to continue to succeed and stay here for 10 years, but I’m going to help them to achieve their goals, no matter what.”
Eagles and Bulldogs in primetime
Late Monday afternoon, an official start time of 7 p.m. was announced for Georgia Southern’s Nov. 21 game against Georgia in Athens. The game will also be broadcast to a national audience, as ESPNU will televise the game.
This will be the Eagles’ fifth appearance on ESPNU since moving up to FBS last season. Georgia Southern is 3-1 in those games, sweeping a pair of Thursday-night games last season and splitting another pair of weeknight games this season.
Georgia Southern has faced Georgia five times previously, dropping all five contests, most recently a 45-14 defeat in 2012.