For the past seven weeks, Georgia Southern football fans enjoyed being able to say their Eagles were the No. 1 team in the Football Championship Subdivision.
But GSU lost, 24-17, to Appalachian State on Saturday in Boone, N.C. As a result, the Eagles (7-1, 5-1 Southern Conference) on Monday dropped to No. 5 in the The Sports Network/Fathead.com FCS Top 25 Poll. They fell to No. 4 in the FCS Coaches Poll.
Appalachian State (6-2, 4-1) moved up two spots to No. 3 in both polls.
What does this mean? All it really means is that the Mountaineers found a way to beat the Eagles on Saturday. Rankings are meaningless until the final polls come out at the end of the season.
Sure, GSU wanted to be 10-0 (8-0 SoCon) going into its Nov. 19 game against Alabama.
And losing to Appalachian State, which has won the SoCon championship for six consecutive seasons and won three national championships from 2005-07, makes it even more difficult for GSU players, coaches and fans to stomach.
“We expect to win every game,” GSU cornerback Laron Scott said Saturday. “To be down and to lose a game like this, it’s a hard defeat. But we’ve got to learn from it and definitely get better.”
What GSU learned against Appalachian State is that the Eagles are not invincible. The Eagles produced a season-low 201 yards of total offense on 62 plays compared to Appalachian State’s 320 yards on 59 plays.
“We knew that they were going to come out and key on the B-Backs,” said GSU B-Back Robert Brown, who ran for a team-high 47 yards on 15 carries.
“We tried to open it up in several other places, but they have a good defense and a great secondary, and they made more plays than us, so I give them props on that.
“We just have to focus on going out this week and working hard, and letting this game go.”
Both Scott and Brown are correct. The Eagles must learn from the loss and then let it go. The Citadel is coming to Paulson Stadium at
2 p.m. Saturday intent on spoiling GSU’s homecoming game.
Forget about looking ahead to Nov. 12 at Wofford.
Focus on how The Citadel scored 42 points in a 49-42 loss to Appalachian State on Oct. 15. And don’t let the Bulldogs score even half as many points.
For GSU, no longer having the No. 1 target on its back is perhaps the best thing about losing to Appalachian State. No coach in America wants to be No. 1 until after a championship game.
Although GSU head coach Jeff Monken probably won’t say it, I bet he’s relieved to no longer be
No. 1 because it’s a big burden for any team to carry week after week.
Better to fly under the radar and sneak up on opponents from this point forward, if it’s possible for a tradition-rich program like GSU to sneak up on anyone.
“It was pretty tough, just having nothing to say (after the game) and not being able to celebrate as a team,” Brown said. “It’s very hard on us, knowing that we have a loss. But, again, it’s good for us because it puts us in the place where we know that we can lose. We have to work on doing our assignments, focusing on where we have to be on each and every play.”
Better to lose now, during the regular season, and make adjustments than to be perfect until the playoffs and have your season end. GSU has won six national championships. Only one of those teams finished the season perfect -- the 1989 team went 15-0. GSU’s 1985 team finished 13-2, with losses to Middle Tennessee State and James Madison. The Eagles’ 1986 team went 13-2, losing to Florida and East Carolina. GSU’s 1990 team finished 12-3, with three consecutive losses to Middle Tennessee State, Florida State and Eastern Kentucky. The Eagles’ 1999 team went 13-2 (7-1 SoCon) with losses to Oregon State and Appalachian State. And GSU’s 2000 team finished 13-2 (7-1 SoCon), losing to Georgia and Furman.
There is still a lot of football left to be played. And GSU still has an opportunity to win a SoCon championship and a national championship.