While other Sun Belt teams were beating up on the Big 12 and securing wins over Power Five opponents, Georgia Southern was toiling away against FCS team Campbell in a 27-26 win on Saturday.
With 33 Eagle players (8 starters) announced before the game to be out for various reasons, the Camels nearly took GS to the absolute limit. The game eventually came down to the two-point conversion by Campbell with 15 seconds to go in regulation that was unsuccessful, and the subsequent onside kick attempt(s) by the Camels that Southern ended up securing to finally seal the win.
After one half of play, this game looked anything but close. The Camels dominated the first two quarters of action, holding the Eagles to just 6 points and seemingly moving the ball at will in the passing game.
You thought Georgia Southern’s pass defense was rough to watch last year? WOOF.
Campbell quarterback Hajj-Malik Williams completed 63 percent of his pass attempts for 237 yards and a pair of scores in this one, allowing the visiting squad to take a 7 point lead over Southern by halftime.
Williams added a rushing touchdown to begin the third quarter following a fumble by the team in blue, expanding Campbell’s lead to 20-6 before GS was able to finally show signs of life offensively.
This win can be attributed to the never-say-die attitudes of Eagles quarterback Shai Werts and rusher J.D. King. Werts has to be considered the team MVP in the victory, leading the team in rushing with 155 yards on just 14 totes while adding both a passing and a rushing score.
King handled the ball out of the backfield with Wesley Kennedy III being one of the players listed out for this one. King added 74 yards on the ground and added some much needed toughness and an even more necessary rushing score to open the fourth quarter.
I alluded to it above, but Georgia Southern’s defense was not very good until the final quarter of this one, allowing the Camels quarterback to make plays both with his arm and legs.
In order for the Eagles to even be a respectable squad in the Sun Belt this year, the defense will have to improve by leaps and bounds as an entire unit. This effort today, with players missing or not, will not cut it against the better teams in the conference.
Georgia Southern has a history of keeping it close against teams it should easily handle, with last year’s 8 point win over FCS Maine being a perfect example. Hopefully at some point the Eagles will be able to defeat a lesser opponent without giving its fans heart palpitations in the process.
Southern will try to secure its second win of the year next Saturday, as it welcomes Willie Taggart’s Florida Atlantic squad to Statesboro.
Oh, and it was announced it was going to be on ESPN earlier today. Hopefully Southern shows up before the fourth quarter for this one.