Georgia Southern was thrilled to have history repeat itself in the form of beating a ranked Appalachian State squad last week.
Unfortunately for the Eagles, the trend didn’t end there.
Just like last season, Georgia Southern followed up an emotional win over App State with an equally devastating loss in its next game, taking the Eagles’ control of the Sun Belt East division just days after GS had assumed the top spot in the race. What started out as a day full of promise for the Eagles ended in a runaway 49-28 victory for the Trojans.
“We hate to lose as much as we love to win,” GS coach Chad Lunsford said. “(Our guys) are hurting right now. It’s not the same as last year, even if it’s the same result. We can’t let this loss get us. We have to figure out how to move forward and get the next one.”
Saturday’s game was all Troy from the start.
Utilizing a hyper-speed offensive attack, Troy (4-5, 2-3 Sun Belt) sped down the field on the game’s first possession and found the end zone when Kaleb Barker (27-31, 330 yards) found Bret Clard for a 13-yard touchdown just over two minutes into the contest.
Georgia Southern went 3-and-out on its first possession of the day and Troy quickly doubled its lead when D.K. Billingsley rushed into the end zone from 18 yards out.
The Eagles threw counterpunches for much of the rest of the game, but could never get out in front.
Wesley Kennedy continued his streak of scoring in all five games he’s played this season as he sprinted 41 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. Georgia Southern quarterback Shai Werts also set a career high with three passing touchdowns as he found Malik Murray for two scores and Darion Anderson for another TD strike, but all of those came in a comeback effort that was never realized by the Eagles.
“Getting behind like that, it’s tough to come back with how we run our offense.” Lunsford said. “It starts with me and I didn’t have our guys ready tonight. (Troy) did what we thought they were going to do. We just didn’t play the way we needed to in order to stop it.”
Troy kicker Tyler Sumpter connected from 24 and 23 yards in the third quarter to make it a 27-14 Troy advantage heading into the final 15 minutes of play. Anderson’s touchdown grab for GS pulled the Eagles within 27-21, but Troy rattled off three straight touchdowns on its next three possessions - en route to piling up 603 yards of total offense - to pull away for the win.
Werts had a banner day through the air, but the Eagles continue to live and die by the run - something that just wasn’t there against Troy.
The Eagles rushed 49 times for just 152 yards as the Trojans were quick to plug up holes and cancel out running lanes for prospective option pitches. Georgia Southern held on to the ball well enough to win the turnover battle, but ball security was mitigated by 55 yards lost in the rushing game due to Troy defenders getting through the GS offensive line and wreaking havoc.
With the loss, the Sun Belt East title that was in the Eagles’ control for the last week is now back up in the air.
Now that the Eagles’ destiny is no longer in their own hands, the team is trying to shift focus to the things that can be controlled.
“We’ve got work to do and we’ve got some things to fix,” Lunsford said. “Next week we have UL Monroe, and they can to a lot of the things Troy did to hurd us. We need to focus on us and fix those things to make sure we can go 1-0 next week.”