Georgia Southern & The Importance Of Attitude
BYE-BYE-BYE: NAVY SAYS GOODBYE TO WEEKLY FOOTBALL… AND WILL SAY GOODBYE TO A BOWL IF IT CAN’T FINISH WITH STRENGTH
The “regular” part of the regular season for Navy is done. Weekly football has already been left in the rearview mirror, and this Saturday, the Midshipmen will also say goodbye to a home crowd in Annapolis as they play their final home game of the season.
This is the second half of November, so it must be the time of year when games are either preceded or followed by off weeks instead of games. Navy enters its final three contests with a chance to gain extra rest and preparation before all three. There’s something else about each of these three games which has to be pointed out: Navy needs to win them in order to finish the regular season with a winning record. That really matters in an autumn which has seen so many other goals come and go without being attained.
Bad luck is a part of sports and a fact of life. It emerges for most of us, and it certainly did for Navy in the form of Keenan Reynolds’s injury issues. Navy can’t do a thing about that. However, the Midshipmen’s offense has looked itself again in the past two games against San Jose State and Notre Dame. That, at least, has restored the belief that this program is still doing the kinds of things it is supposed to do in the way it is supposed to do them.
Dreams of a 10- or 11-win season flew out the window a long time ago in Annapolis. That’s okay. As long as Navy wins these next three games, the season can be viewed with a smile – maybe not a silly grin or a belly laugh, but a quiet smile borne of the satisfaction which flows from resilience. If Navy shores itself up in these bye-week-laden battles, everyone in and around the program can look to 2015 with due optimism.
Army will be its own special challenge, and South Alabama has a winning record, but as much as those two teams might test the Midshipmen, the opponent which stands in the way more than any other is Georgia Southern. This team’s attitude is clearly the best among Navy’s remaining opponents, so the Men Of Ken Niumatalolo will have to display maximum fortitude against coach Willie Fritz’s forces on Saturday.
Georgia Southern, should it win its season finale against Louisiana-Monroe on Nov. 29, will clinch at least a tie for the Sun Belt title in its first season in the league, which has doubled as the program’s first season in the FBS after playing last season in the FBS. Fritz, who established an FCS powerhouse at Sam Houston State, has moved to the FBS – and a new program – without missing a beat. He has taken what was already a quality program and maintained the right internal subculture. Moreover, Georgia Southern – the team that upset Florida in The Swamp last season – has fared well against power-conference teams this season. The Eagles lost at North Carolina State by one point (remember that NCSU led Florida State by 10 in the third quarter this season) and were beaten by Georgia Tech in Atlanta on a last-minute touchdown. Georgia Tech’s coach is, as you know, former Navy boss Paul Johnson. The point of mentioning that obvious detail is simply to convey the fact that Georgia Southern has gone toe-to-toe with a more credentialed FBS triple-option team - on the road, no less – and played a game on even terms. If Navy is expecting to cruise here, it’s bringing the wrong attitude to the ballpark. If Navy does bring that mentality to Annapolis on Saturday… well… the Midshipmen can expect to be 4-6, their hopes of a bowl and a seven-win season on life support.
Navy’s offense is certainly capable of winning this game big. The capabilities of this offense are not in question, nor should they be. Right now, it’s all about the doing for the Midshipmen, and the doing begins with a tunnel-vision focus on each nuance of each individual play. Looking that ball into one’s arms (which Reynolds didn’t do on the trick play which snookered Notre Dame’s defense), finishing a pitch, making clean exchanges, processing reads against the defense – if Navy can tend to the basic details against Georgia Southern, it should be fine.
Attitude is everything for a team whose preliminaries have ended, a team that needs to win three games and find itself smiling on the evening of December 13.
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