It certainly was not pretty, but the defense of Georgia Southern made enough plays and forced Florida Atlantic to turn the ball over four times in a 20-3 victory on Saturday.
Two interceptions by Owls quarterback Javion Posey were backbreaking in FAU’s loss, as GS was more than happy to keep its opponent out of the painted area for the entirety of the contest.
Georgia Southern won the yardage battle by a 339-322 margin, but for the most part was more than happy to ride its lights out defensive performance to a win that helped snap a two-game losing skid for the Eagles.
With starter Shai Werts nursing a shoulder injury, Justin Tomlin stepped in at the quarterback position for Southern and looked worlds better than he had in contests against Army and Georgia State in the last two weeks.
Tomlin wasn’t an efficient passer, completing just 3-of-12 attempts for 70 yards, but did enough with his legs to keep the Owls at bay, rushing for a team-high 78 yards in this one.
Gerald Green and Logan Wright assisted Tomlin in the quest to essentially run the clock out on Florida Atlantic, with Green running for 74 and Wright chipping in 57 yards and the game’s lone offensive touchdown.
Neither team was able to accomplish much in the first quarter, but a 49-yard punt return by Kaleb Hood just a few moments into the second frame allowed GS to take a 7-0 lead. A good deal of sloppy play between both squads saw the Eagles add a field goal to close out the half to take a 10-0 lead at half.
FAU’s lone score came on a 10-play, 67-yard drive that saw Nick Tronti take over in relief for a struggling Posey. When the drive eventually stalled out, head coach Willie Taggart opted to kick a field goal with Vladimir Rivas. That proved to ultimately be a mistake, as the Owls were not able to score any additional points after that drive.
A Logan Wright touchdown and another field goal by Alex Raynor set the final score with the Eagles earning a 20-3 win.
The play calling by interim offensive coordinator Doug Ruse was different enough to justify the change that Chad Lunsford made following the loss to Georgia State, but some head scratching decision-making still remained.
A few times, Georgia Southern opted to run inside handoffs on 3rd and 4th and short situations, getting stuffed easily and handing the ball right back to FAU. Who knows how much of that was playing it safe due to the Werts’ injury, and how much of it was just overly conservative due to the way the defense was playing.
The Eagles will need to mix up its play calling and get more aggressive when it faces off with rival Appalachian State at home next week.