After allowing UMass to score half of a hundred points last season, Georgia Southern was able to avenge that loss tonight as the Eagles ran the ball down the Minutemen’s throat en route to a 34-13 home win.
I wrote in my preview that ideally quarterback Shai Werts would throw the ball very little and lower the opportunity to make mistakes through the air, which GS did, as Werts went 6-9 (nice) while throwing for 154 yards and two scores with no picks.
The Eagles offense was a little slow to get things going to kick off the game, but got clicking in the second quarter by way of 17 points on scores from Werts to tight end Cam Brown and a short run by the quarterback along with a long 41-yard boot by Tyler Bass.
UMass answered with a rushing score before the first half, but did little else throughout the game as Southern would outscore its opponent 24-3 the rest of the way.
One caveat I will add is that it seems like the Minutemen suffer from a lack of offensive identity, similar to Georgia Southern last season. UMass ran a crazy number of different formations to varying results, but needs to shorten its playbook down to the formations that actually produce points moving forward.
Running back Wesley Fields carried the load for GS in the win, rushing 21 times for 141 yards, showing a great deal of power and was a major factor in burning almost five minutes of clock in the fourth quarter as the Eagles looked to close out its opponent.
In addition to Fields, Monteo Garrett (90 yards and a score) and Werts (83 and a touchdown) each looked sharp as well, with Wesley Kennedy III providing the team with some explosive plays in both the passing and running game.
UMass did make a baffling decision down 14 in the fourth quarter with seven minutes to go, punting the ball back to Southern on a 4th and 10, essentially kicking away its chance at the game by being too risk averse, just a strange decision all around.
Two minor negative notes I will add for Southern in the win are:
- The lack of big explosive plays on the ground until late in the game; It seems as if Kennedy or backup Matt LaRoche can fill that need, but need more chances with either some screens or some other play to get those speedy guys out into space.
- At times, it still seems like Werts is attempting to do too much instead of handing the ball off or pitching it, to the detriment of the play. There were a few times early on when the offense was struggling a bit that Shai should have given the ball away but instead tried to run through two or three defenders.
Those are two minor nitpicks that may become major problems next week as the Eagles face off with No. 2 ranked Clemson, but for now, it’s just good to be 2-0 as Georgia Southern has already matched its win total from last season.