Georgia Southern football gears up for season finale in Appalachian state

STATESBORO – Georgia Southern’s Eldrick Robinson II turned out to be a quick study, expanding the depth chart and becoming a beginner as a true freshman.

The inside linebacker, who started in Game 4 this season, is second on the team with 71 tackles and leads with two interceptions for the Eagles (3-8, 2-5 Sun Belt Conference).

It also didn’t take him long to learn about Georgia Southern’s biggest rival – Appalachian State, the opponent this Saturday (2:30 p.m., ESPN +) at Kidd Brewer Stadium in Boone, NC.

“It’s hate week,” Robinson, from Pensacola, Fla., Said Monday. “Everyone takes it up a notch, the intensity goes up a notch. I love playing games like this.”

Georgia Southern has played Appalachian State more than any other opponent – 36 times – and the Mountaineers have a 20-15-1 advantage, including Boone’s 11-5-1.

“They don’t like us. We don’t like them,” said Robinson. “We have to let the tampons do the talking. “

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The schools have a long history together, having been members of the Southern Conference (FCS) from 1993 to 2013 before simultaneously moving to the Sun Belt Conference (FBS) in 2014.

“It’s going to be a chippy game for sure,” said cornerback Darrell Baker Jr., a sixth-year senior with Hephzibah. “A great thing is you went out, keep a cool head and have fun, don’t let your emotions get the best of you.

“They’re going to talk so much; I’m pretty sure we will too. At the end of the day, it’s about winning. You have to do what you have to do to win. It’s keeping your head straight all the time. . “

Eagles vs. mountaineers

The teams have played every season since 1993 – twice in 2001, both wins for GS – and will face off in the regular season finals for the two teams for the second year in a row.

The Mountaineers (9-2, 6-1 SBC) are enjoying a season the rest of the Eastern Division can envy, having won the title and a place in the Sun Belt Championship game on December 4 against the Western Division titlist. in Louisiana. After that, bowl games await these two teams.

Shawn Clark, in his second season as head coach of his alma mater, said there was no way his team would look past Georgia Southern for a rematch with the Ragin ‘Cajuns, who won their regular season game 41-13 on Oct. 12. in Lafayette on national television.

“If you’ve been here long enough, the Georgia Southern rivalry is, in my opinion, one of the best in college football,” Clark said on Monday. “It doesn’t matter if they didn’t have any wins and we didn’t have any wins, this place would be sold out on Saturday. Lots of respect for Georgia Southern. It’s a game we won’t neglect, I can promise you that. . “

There will be no playoffs for Georgia Southern, who had played bowl games the previous three seasons (winning twice).

The Eagles will conclude what has been a tumultuous campaign, with head coach Chad Lunsford fired after a 1-3 start and third-year cornerback coach Kevin Whitley serving as interim head coach for the eight. remaining matches.

Whitley and the rest of the coaching staff will await staffing decisions from the next head coach, Clay Helton, who was hired earlier this month and will take full responsibility after the season ends on Saturday.

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Thoughts of Thanksgiving

Whitley took the time at the weekly Monday campus press conference to reflect this holiday week on her role in navigating the interim program.

“I’m very grateful for this opportunity. It’s an opportunity that a lot of people never – ever have,” said Whitley. “There are guys who have been coaching college football for over 20 years who haven’t had the opportunity that I had in the past eight weeks. I learned a lot about the process, learned about the situations. “

A former Georgia Southern student and All-America defensive back who rose through the pro ranks, Whitley was a very successful high school football coach in the Atlanta area before accepting Lunsford’s offer to be the cornerback coach from 2019.

Whitley isn’t sure if he’ll be selected, but expects to be happy if he stays, returns to high school training, or even gets an opportunity with the pros because he enjoys coaching football.

“That I’m here next year, that I go back to high school, I can’t lose,” Whitley said. “If I go back to high school, my son (Avery) is in seventh grade. He and I are going to tear it all up when he comes in third. We’re going to do it together. I just can’t. I’m going to win, no matter how it turns out. ends for me personally.

“Coach Helton is going to do a great job. I’m sure he’s going to make a great team. If I’m one of those guys, hey, I’ll be all out. If I’m anywhere else, I’ll be excited about it. the opportunity I have. I am delighted to work with children in this capacity. I have learned a lot. I am excited about what the future holds. “

Previous game: Georgia Southern closes home slate with change in QB, top-ranked foe and loss

But first, there’s Saturday’s game and another chance for the senior class to wear Georgia Southern’s blue and white uniforms.

“We want to finish strong and it would be a good win to go out there and beat them guys,” Baker said. “They’re a good team. Although it’s a rivalry game, (and) we might not have a bowl game, we’re still going to play like it’s the last game. of our life. We’re going to go out there and have fun and, with a lot of energy, steal and be our best. “

Whitley noted that when he played for the Eagles (1988-91), App State was not on the program. When he returned as an assistant coach he noticed the intensity level was high all week for the App State game and wondered, “Why don’t we train like this all the time?” ? “

“It means something to them,” said Whitley, who said his team have been playing hard all season and expects players to be motivated this week.

“It shouldn’t be difficult. Since being here as a coach, this week of training has been like no other,” he said. “I can’t think of a better way to end a tough season than to get a victory at Boone.”

Nathan Dominitz is the Sports Content Editor for Savannah Morning News and Email him at [email protected] Twitter: @NathanDominitz

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