Ideally, home is a refuge, a place where teams feel like they’ve got the upper hand. And historically, that’s been the case for Georgia Southern’s football team.
Paulson Stadium has been good to the Eagles, who have accumulated a 147-24 home record over the years entering this season. But the team hasn’t seen as much success in Statesboro this year as it’s accustomed to seeing in “The Prettiest Little Stadium in America.”
Georgia Southern’s bizarre season has been marked by several thrilling come-from-behind wins and a few heartbreaking home losses.
In their first two nonconference games, Southern (5-4, 3-3 SoCon) had to settle for a come-from-behind win over Austin Peay (now 1-8 overall and in last place at 1-5 in the Ohio Valley Conference) and an overtime victory against Northeastern (now 2-7 and 1-4 in the Colonial Athletic Association).
Upon entering conference play, the Eagles’ dropped three straight at home to what have proven to be the toughest teams in the SoCon and the nation this season — Elon, Wofford and Appalachian State, respectively — each losses were by a combined total of less than three points.
Conversely, Georgia Southern is unbeaten against FCS opponents on the road, winning at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Western Carolina in overtime and, most recently, The Citadel in three overtimes.
“I was told traditionally, that (The Citadel) is always a tough place for us to play and I thought it was an evenly matched game,” coach Chris Hatcher said. “We’re finding a way to win now. Even though these games are very close, it builds great character on your team. There’s no deficit that you feel like you can’t come back from, and that’s always a good thing when you have that type of attitude.”
After two-straight overtime road wins, the Eagles will come home for homecoming to face conference newcomer Samford (4-4, 2-3) for a noon kickoff on Saturday, with hopes that they might see something new out of their team: an easy home win.
“We’ve played really well on the road. I’ve been real proud of our guys and how we’ve traveled well. Hopefully this week we’ll play good at home for a change.”
Half of Georgia Southern’s eight games this season have finished with at least one overtime. Two more — the matchups against Elon and Appalachian — have been decided by a combined three points. As the wild ride of the 2008 season winds down, Southern wouldn’t mind a bit of a breather from such close games.
“Hopefully we try to win one in regulation, that would be nice,” Hatcher said. “But we’ll take the wins any way we can get them.”
“All these overtime games, it’s crazy,” said wide receiver Raja Andrews following Saturday’s 44-41 victory over The Citadel which took three overtimes. “You look and you think, ‘What’s next? What more can you see?’ I come to practice every day and come to games saying I’ve seen it all, so it’s time for us to go out here and basically blow a team out. I guess that would be the one thing I haven’t seen, so I guess I’m looking for that.”