Georgia Southern Eagles vs Arkansas State Red Wolves: Dyin’ Times Here
The only thing this Thunderdome is missing is Tina Turner and a convoluted third act.
Last season Georgia Southern effectively bounced Arkansas State out of the Sun Belt West with a 28-21 victory – the first game of conference play. The Red Wolves never recovered. Arkansas State would finish behind Louisiana, and darkness settled over Jonesboro.
This season, the time of year has changed, but the stakes are just as high. For both teams. Both are 6-4. Both are 4-2 in conference. Both are glaring upwards at hated enemies. And a loss on Saturday removes all hope of winning their respective divisions.
Two teams enter. One team leaves with a shred of hope intact.
“Thunderdome’s simple. Get to the weapons, use them any way you can.”
The key to a Red Wolves victory is fairly simple – activate Omar Bayless, the offense’s greatest weapon, early and often. Against the Chanticleers, Bayless wasn’t seen until deep in the second quarter, and the Red Wolves struggled to find the end zone. Freshman quarterback Layne Hatcher needs to get the nation’s leading receiver involved right away to keep that stout Eagles’ defense on its heels. Don’t worry about the Georgia Southern DB combo of Monquavion Brinson and Kindle Vildor (who hasn’t suited up the last two games). They’re going to make plays. Bayless will make more.
“Remember where you are – this is Thunderdome, and death is listening, and will take the first man that screams.”
Last week, the Red Wolves coughed up the pill five times. Historically, copious turnovers haven’t necessarily prevented Arkansas State from beating Georgia Southern, but it’s not wise to test this anomaly of the universe again. Hatcher (again, a freshman) will throw a pick or two, but the remaining Red Wolves need to protect the ball at all costs.
Meanwhile, Georgia Southern is tied for 9th in the nation with only 9 turnovers, complements of a run-run-run-run again offense. Forcing mistakes from running back J.D. King and quarterback Shai Wertz hasn’t come easy.
“Right now, I’ve got two men, two men with a gut full of fear. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls… dyin’ times here!”
The stakes are big in Jonesboro on Saturday. While both teams are bowl eligible, not every bowl eligible team will go bowling. A win more-or-less cements postseason action. Neither teams can afford to crumble beneath the weight of the moment.
The Red Wolves have home field advantage, but Georgia Southern has already passed the road game test against the Mountaineers in Boone. Maybe that’s why the Vegas line, which started 1.5 points in favor of Arkansa State, has settled to EVEN?
“Thunderdome. How do I get in there?”
“That’s easy. Pick a fight.”
Eagles and Red Wolves are foes-made-rivals by Saturday’s circumstances. The heat will be felt on the field, and emotions will be dialed to 11. Arkansas State was sloppier than usual against Coastal Carolina. A public rebuke from Coach Anderson and a week of disciplined practice should help clean the laundry.
Mad Max Beyond the Thunderdome was a dopey movie, and Mel Gibson’s frizzy hair extensions were ridiculous. But Tina Turner produced a song that slapped, and I’m still steamed that we never got a Master Blaster prequel.
As for the game, Vegas was too scared to call it, but I have the foolhardy courage to roll with Arkansas State’s Omar Bayless and a defense that has, beneath the radar, showed flashes of capability.
Georgia Southern Eagles @ Arkansas State Red Wolves, Saturday, 2:00PM on ESPN+
A former notary public, Jeremy Harper is a professional writer and Chief Instigator for Storm the Castle Creative. He spends much of his free time staring blankly into space.