STATESBORO — The Georgia Southern football team (now 6-6, 3-5 Sun Belt Conference) played one of its biggest game of the season without some of its key contributors on Saturday when the Eagles knocked off Appalachian State (6-6, 3-5) in double overtime, 51-48, at Paulson Stadium.
Injuries are a part of the game, certainly, and for Game 12 the Eagles were not at full strength. The list of players lost to season-ending injuries earlier this campaign at linebacker, wide receiver, on the defensive line and at long snapper, for example, might now include running back.
Juniors Jalen White (leg injury) and Gerald Green (stinger), who have done the large majority of running for the Eagles, were hurt last week and missed the regular-season finale against the Mountaineers.
In addition, the defensive line was thinner without LJ McCloud (foot).
The Eagles will not be using injuries as an excuse.
"We have enough great players on this football team to go win a rivalry game," Georgia Southern coach Clay Helton said on Monday. "We've got to place those guys in position, give them a great plan and trust them with that plan. The other thing is we've got to control what we can control. The injuries are there. We totally get that. But we have to be able to still organize a great plan with the personnel we have to be effective. That's why they pay us."
The players are well aware the roster has thinned, but that translates to more playing time for others who are perhaps less experienced.
"It's the next-man-up mentality," GS quarterback Kyle Vantrease said Monday. "All it really is is an opportunity for other athletes, other players to get their chance to show what they're capable of, and put film on their resume.
"We've got a lot of playmakers all around the field. I'm excited to go watch them all go out and play. Some of the young guys have stepped up really well these last couple of weeks for us. I think they're starting to really come into their role and understand what they have to do and we have to do as an offense, especially, to be successful. No matter what happens, no matter who's on that field, there's 11 of us, there's 11 of them. I'm taking the 11 I'm with every single time."
11:40 a.m. | Final home game for seniors including Kyle Vantrease
Both GS and App State are playing for bowl eligibility on Saturday. While the postseason is to be determined, it's definitely the final game at Paulson Stadium for 20-plus Eagles seniors.
Those completing their eligibility include Kyle Vantrease, a sixth-year player who transferred to Statesboro in January after being a three-year starter at the University of Buffalo.
Vantrease's lone season for Georgia Southern has produced program-record numbers for quarterbacks and team passing statistics. He's earned Sun Belt Conference and national weekly accolades with his performances. His addition to the roster was the most important as the Eagles transitioined from a run-heavy to much more pass-friendly offense.
"I've always thought great quarterbacks give your team hope. Every game you went into, you have hope," GS coach Clay Helton said. "That's what he does for us. There's not one game that we don't think we can compete in, not one game we don't think we can win. It's because of him. His veteran leadership and his poise just gives us an opportunity in each and every game.
"He has this quiet demeanor about him, this calmness, that as we've suffered some injuries down the stretch here, and got a lot of young people on the field, they're calm because of how he reacts, how he pumps them up," the coach continued.
"Then he's productive; he makes plays. We would not have this opportunity if he wasn't the triggerman and doing what he's doing right now for us. We're very thankful Kyle's here. He's had a great year, a nationally recognized year. We look forward to him going to lead us one more time at Paulson Stadium and, hopefully, coming out victorious."
What time do the Georgia Southern Eagles play the Appalachian State Mountaineers?
Kickoff: 6 p.m. ET, Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022.
Location: Paulson Stadium (capacity 25,000), Statesboro
How to watch Appalachian State at Georgia Southern on TV
Danny Waugh (play-by-play), Cole Neely (analyst) and Emily Grace McWhorter (sidelines) will have the call on the ESPN+ online streaming service.
Radio for Appalachian State at Georgia Southern
Danny Reed (play-by-play), Terry Harvin (analyst), Russ Brown (analyst) and Frank Sulkowski (sidelines) have the call on the Georgia Southern Sports Network. The pregame, in-game and postgame shows can be heard in Savannah on WIXV 95.5 FM and on the network's flagship station WPMX 94.9 FM in Statesboro.
Betting: Over/under & point spread
As of Wednesday morning, Appalachian State was a 5.5-point favorite, according to the Tipico Sportsbook. The over/under was 62 points. The moneyline was App State -220 and Georgia Southern +175.
This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: Georgia Southern Eagles vs. App State football | Live score updates