After coming off an embarrassing loss on the road to a sub-.500 Troy squad, the Eagles came back to Statesboro and avenged last season’s loss to ULM in Monroe, by defeating the Warhawks in Paulson Stadium 51-29.
With this win, Georgia Southern can check-off another box on their list of goals they wanted to accomplish, which is getting to bowl eligibility. However, in the bigger picture, the conference championship is still the ultimate goal, and it may be yet another year in which that goal is out of reach for the Eagles.
With all of that said, I thought the Eagles overall played a much more complete game than we’ve seen this season. Offensive Coordinator Bob Debesse, in my opinion, did a much better job of finding the weak points in ULM’s defense and using Southern’s weapons in RB J.D. King, QB Shai Werts, and RB Wesley Kennedy III to expose those weaknesses.
The difference maker in most of Georgia Southern’s games this year has been because of RB Wesley Kennedy’s ability to be shifty in the backfield and incredibly fast in the open-field, which has led to problems for opposing defenses. In this most recent contest however, the difference was made in part to Shai Werts and Oklahoma State transfer J.D. King. It should be noted that Shai Werts has still not thrown an interception in 192 pass-attempts, (knock on wood), as Werts was 5 of 10 on passing with a TD to WR Darion Anderson and 80 total passing yards on the night.
Werts also had himself two rushing touchdowns on 13 carries, for a total of 53 rushing yards. J.D. King has become a bruising-back for the Eagles this season, and he did just that in this contest, where he finished the game with 102 rushing yards and one score on 16 carries. Wesley Kennedy wasn’t a non-factor in this game, he just wasn’t as productive as he usually is, with 76 total yards and one score on 19 carries.
The Southern defense played for a lack of a better word, “lights-out”, forcing two interceptions from ULM’s Caleb Evans, one that was returned for a touchdown. The first interception came on the first series of the game from LB Rashad Byrd, in which ULM elected to receive and was driving down the field. Evans was looking for a man in the middle of the field when Byrd recognized the route and came across the coverage to make the pick. The second interception came from grad-transfer Donald Rutledge Jr., who returned his for a score. To put it simply, defensive coordinator Scott Sloan had his defense ready to play after allowing 600+ yards of offense to Troy last week. The defense I felt also did a fantastic job of limiting Caleb Evans’ ability to make plays with his arm.
This article wouldn’t be complete without noting that Southern had touchdowns in all three phases of the game, offense, defense, and special teams. The score on special teams coming as a surprise on an on-side kick attempt from ULM, in which CB Monquavion Brinson returned the kick for a touch-down to seal the victory in dominating fashion.
In all, this game was controlled by the Eagles and they won in a fashion suitable to their liking. Although the Eagles don’t control their own destiny for a conference title, a bowl-game is still on the horizon and the Eagles will need to win-out for the remainder of the season to reach a bowl that doesn’t have “Arizona” in the name. Look for the Eagles to “reset” after this win, and look to go 1-0 this week coming up against Arkansas State on the road.