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Big plays lead Georgia Southern to its first conference win of the season over Arkansas State, 28-21

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Arkansas State v Georgia Southern Photo by Chris Thelen/Getty Images

With 30 seconds left to go in regulation, both Georgia Southern and Arkansas State had no idea who would walk out of Allen E. Paulson Stadium with a perfect Sun Belt record.

Then Wesley Kennedy III happened to the tune of a 47 yard rushing touchdown on a reverse option pitch, icing the game for the Eagles and handing the Red Wolves the 28-21 loss.

As was expected, ASU quarterback Justice Hansen was great, but I personally was more surprised that the Red Wolves neglected to take more deep shots down the field in the passing game.

When you look at Hansen’s stat line, it’s very impressive (376 yards passing and a touchdown), but much of that was the State signal caller dinking-and-dunking his way on 50 attempts with many coming on screen passes out wide on run-pass option plays. I kept waiting on one of the ASU offensive plays to turn into a slant route, but it just never happened and none of the screens ever really popped for big yardage. But then again, I’m just a guy behind a keyboard.

Neither team started the game quickly on offense, holding a scoreless first quarter before things opened up in the second frame. A Red Wolves drive that looked promising stalled out leading to a 3-0 lead for ASU before Eagles’ quarterback Shai Werts bombed a 61-yard touchdown (his lone completion of the night) on a wheel route to a streaking Wesley Fields coming out of the backfield, leading to a 7-3 lead at the half for Southern.

The second half showed that both offenses had more firepower than was advertised in the first half, as Werts and Wesley Kennedy combined for 218 yards on the ground between them with a rushing touchdown each to help lead Southern to its first Sun Belt victory of the season.

Hansen did everything he could to keep Arkansas State competitive throughout the game, tying it late on a short four-yard TD scamper with 5:07 remaining, but the achilles’ heel of the ASU defense proved to be the tackling ability of the Red Wolves out on the perimeter.

The way Georgia Southern and offensive coordinator Bob DeBesse called this game after the first quarter was what I had been waiting to see all season. When the Eagles get ultra-conservative and try to pound the ball between the tackles, it predictably got next to no yardage, but when they attacked the outside gaps with Kennedy, Werts and Monteo Garrett, the offense was humming.

Additional Takeaways

  • Man, is Wesley Kennedy III fast.