Sports

Hatcher, Eagles going through rough spots

Normally, the timing has been fine when Chris Hatcher has visited the Macon Touchdown Club.

After all, the former Mount de Sales standout was on the losing end of only a dozen games in seven seasons as head coach at Valdosta State. And in his two trips as the boss at Georgia Southern, the Eagles were off an impressive 42-34 loss at FCS member Colorado State and a 52-28 win over Chattanooga.

It has always been a visit with plenty of good to talk about. This time, seeing friendly and familiar faces was more appreciated than usual.

Georgia Southern fell to 4-4 with a 52-16 loss Saturday at Appalachian State, a rare rout in what has been a very tight series between the previous conference power and the current conference power.

“It excites me to come in here (Monday) and see so many friends, and I say ‘real friends,’ ” said Hatcher, Monday night’s speaker.

Hatcher had plenty to talk about this time around, but it wasn’t along the lines of what he was used to.

“I promise you this, It was very difficult (Monday) morning to get up and go to Atlanta and talk ... and come on down here and see folks when you know you got so much work to do, and you really don’t want anybody to see you, you don’t want to really talk about it,” Hatcher said.

And he was signing copies of a new book on his career, “Hatch Attack,” authored by Telegraph sports editor Daniel Shirley.

“I’m glad it was published before the Appalachian State game,” Hatcher said. “If they’d have waited (until) after that (game), there could have been some pages added that wouldn’t have been very complimentary.”

Hatcher said the Eagles were intimidated by about 27,000 fans at Appalachian State, seated in an upgraded stadium that had its share of $50 million worth of campus renovations.

The Mountaineers were extremely ready.

“We got the big eyes going in there,” Hatcher said. “And (quarterback) Armanti Edwards is the best player on the FCS level. Him and (Florida quarterback Tim) Tebow are probably the two best players in all of college football. We got kicked down, and we weren’t good enough to recover. I think we’ll learn from it.”

The last time Georgia Southern gave up more than 50 points, it led to coaching change in 2006.

The natives in Statesboro are growing a little restless, but Hatcher is preaching patience.

“I really like this team,” Hatcher said. “We’re still a young and inexperienced team. It’s going to take a little bit of time to get it going.

“This is what we inherited. There’s a reason why we’re playing a lot of young players. We want to win right now. We want to win championships. But you have to keep it in perspective.”

To say Hatcher is in uncharted waters is an understatement. He has never had to spend a week trying to revitalize a defense that gave up a school record 712 yards of total offense and boost an offense that had only 171 yards and — perhaps most stunning for a Hatcher offense — didn’t have a touchdown pass.

“That was probably the biggest beatdown that I’ve ever really had,” Hatcher said. “We all met (Monday) morning at 6:30 a.m., and there wasn’t a coach or player that wasn’t embarrassed about how it all went.”

The Eagles are off this week after five road games and eight overall. The three FCS losses have come to three teams in the latest top 10: No. 6 Elon, No. 8 Appalachian State and No. 9 South Dakota State.

“We’ve played the 10th toughest schedule in the FCS,” Hatcher said. “It is tough when you’re playing a bunch of young guys and going into different atmospheres and get them to play the way you want them to play. But I’m excited, I’m upbeat about the direction we’re headed in.”

Hatcher got word Monday about his new boss. Georgia Southern announced the appointment of Brooks Keel as the school’s 12th president. But the 36-year-old isn’t too worried about what’s going on in the Pittman Administration Building. He’s trying to put the sparkle back in Eagle Creek.

“I’m just worried about one thing,” Hatcher said, “that’s playing football.”

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