The Georgia Southern football team didn’t take Monday off to celebrate Labor Day. They returned, instead, to work on the gridiron, reconvening for their first practice following a season-opening loss to No. 1 Georgia.
Though the 45-21 defeat in Athens was disappointing for the Eagles, Southern coach Chris Hatcher said he saw plenty he could build on this week.
“There’s a ton of corrections to make,” he said. “But as far as us going out there and competing, I was very pleased.”
The defense also left room for improvement, Hatcher said, particularly where the younger players were concerned.
“There was a couple guys over there, to be honest with you, that did disappoint me,” he said. “Some of the young guys, they didn’t stick their facemask in there like they’re supposed to, and we’ve got to get that either corrected or find someone who will do that.”
The Eagles will host Austin Peay (0-1) on Saturday in the first of four consecutive home games. The Governors fell to North Dakota State 41-6 in their opener.
“That’s a very hard game to judge,” Hatcher said. “The one thing that concerns me is they’ve had a little extra time. They played on Thursday, so they’ve had a couple extra days to rest and get ready for us.”
No matter which team is up next on the Eagles’ schedule, Hatcher said the defense has to stop giving up big plays and GSU receivers have to do a better job of catching the football.
After matching up against the then-No. 1-ranked team in the Football Bowl Subdivision, a truer test may come this week when the Eagles match up against the Governors at Paulson Stadium.
Austin Peay, 7-4 a year ago, was 5-1 on the road in 2007. The Governors, out of the Ohio Valley Conference, had suffered through four consecutive losing seasons until last year under new coach Rick Christophel.
Despite an imposing Georgia front four that Hatcher describes as “pretty salty,” the Eagles still managed 102 rushing yards Saturday.
Knowing that his team could take the field and compete with the Bulldogs gave Hatcher enough confidence that the Eagles have the potential to fare well once they reach the meat of their Southern Conference season.
“I’m a lot more fired up now than I was heading into the (Georgia) game,” he said. “because we may have a chance.”
Notes: Five Georgia Southern athletes will be allowed to play in Saturday’s game against Austin Peay after fulfilling a one-game suspension.
Wide receiver Raja Andrews, defensive ends Charwel Brown and Damon Suggs, offensive lineman Brandavious Mann and linebacker Terrione Benefield will return for the Eagles. Hatcher said Monday that they will have to work their way up from the bottom of the depth chart, but will all play on Saturday. Three players — including running back Zeke Rozier and defensive back Ronnie Wiggins — will sit out Saturday’s game.