There wasn’t a whole lot that was pretty about the Georgia Southern Eagles in their final game of the 2014 season.
Louisiana-Monroe came into Statesboro on Saturday ready to put up a fight, penalties popped up at inopportune times, key Eagle players were bitten by the injury bug, and GSU fans watched in horror as the kicking game reverted to the much-maligned 2012 version of Eagles’ special teams struggles.
But for all of that ugliness, the Eagles prevailed, 22-16, and their pristine 8-0 record in Sun Belt play will leave things looking nice and pretty as they enter the offseason.
And in that offseason, there are bound to be plenty of talking points.
Things such as:
• Why couldn’t the Eagles have just been allowed into a bowl?
• Will Georgia Southern repeat its success now that the rest of the league knows what to expect?
• Can the Eagles avoid losing head coach Willie Fritz after just one season if the coaching carousel heats up?
• And, seriously, what’s up with that kicking?
All of those are valid questions that deserve their day in the sun, but that isn’t what should be on the minds of any fan, player or coach right now.
Today — and for a good long while following it — the 2014 Eagles should be remembered as that team who showed up out of nowhere, making a bunch of claims about competing right away and then spent three months backing it up.
This year’s Eagle squad needs to be remembered for how some seniors were recruited for a pro-style team, had to transition into a triple-option team, had to endure a second coaching change, and were willing to stick it out through all of that while knowing that their final two seasons could yield no offseason.
This Georgia Southern team was the one that couldn’t even get most broadcasters to correctly identify it early in the season, but was getting air time on ESPN’s “College Gameday” throughout the final month of play.
But most importantly, this Georgia Southern team was the one that no one in the Sun Belt could beat.
In a conference that saw seven of its eight teams qualify for a bowl game in 2013, none could stand up to an Eagle squad that wasn’t even eligible for a postseason slot. And, in the end, the Eagles nearly kicked that bowl door down as well.
Football — as with most sports — will leave you in its dust if you spend too much time reminiscing on the past instead of preparing for the future. There is no doubt that the Eagles will begin 2015 as the team wearing a giant bull’s-eye in the Sun Belt.
Much of the next nine months will be spent hard at work in the weight room and on the practice field with those exact thoughts in mind.
But anyone wearing or cheering the Blue and White needs to spare a few seconds every once in a while to remember this 2014 team and what it accomplished.
For this season, and some seniors, it’s the end.
For the rest of the Eagles, this was one great beginning.