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Eagles kick off Sun Belt play at UL Lafayette
GS Football
Georgia Southern’s defense gangs up to record a sack against Campbell quarterback Hajj-Malik Williams during the Sept. 12 season opener at Paulson Stadium.

In the Covid-19 era having games cancelled and postponed at the last moment is just something teams are going to have to deal with. Last Saturday the Georgia Southern Eagles were anxious to see what kind of progress they had made from their season opening 27-26 win over Campbell. The day before the game the Eagles got word that the Florida Atlantic Owls would not be flying to Statesboro. The game is tentatively rescheduled for Dec. 5.

“Last week we were disappointed for our guys to not get to play game two against Florida Atlantic,” said Coach Chad Lunsford. “I do think our guys did a good job of flipping the switch, and resetting. I just wish Florida Atlantic would have made a decision sooner, which would have allowed us a little more time to get prepped for this week’s game.”

The Eagles had some issues on both sides of the ball in their one-point win over Campbell, and were hoping to use the Florida Atlantic game to see if the adjustments they made during the week addressed those issues.

“I think it would have helped to have played Florida Atlantic for sure,” said Lunsford. “Our focus last week was trying to get better from week one to week two. I think it was a disadvantage to not get to see what we did to get better in a game situation, however I feel like we got the most out of our practice last week.”

“We have worked hard on being physical and fast,” said Eagle offensive lineman Brian Miller. “This is going to be a much more physical game. We have to be locked in to every detail, and all of our assignments.”

The Eagles will not only look different because of the problems they addressed, but also because of the personnel on the field. Among the players Georgia Southern will see returning to the field are last year’s leading rusher Wesley Kennedy and defensive lineman C.J. Wright.

“We felt last week we would get about half the guys that missed the first game back,” said Lunsford. “This week we expect that number to be even lower. I’m excited to get Wesley and C.J back. I’m also excited to get Emil Smith and Beau Johnson back. Those guys haven’t played a whole lot for us, but have shown that they should play for us.”

This week the Eagles open Sun Belt play on the road at #19 ranked Louisiana. In the past two years the Eagles have had moments where they have played down to their competition: a 28-16 win over Maine, going to double overtime with 2-10 South Alabama, and triple overtime with 5-7 Coastal Carolina. The Eagles have conversely gotten up for tough teams: beating top 25 ranked Appalachian State the past two years, and giving 11-2 Minnesota a scare before falling in the final seconds.

“If we are giving off the vibe that we are playing down to competition, that’s not what we need to be about,” said Lunsford. “I feel like our guys are locked in this week, as they know we have a very tough opponent ahead of us. I expect our players to play a lot better than they did against Campbell, and I expect improvement from us as a coaching staff as well.”

“We don’t worry about that ranking stuff, rankings can’t save you between those white lines,” said Eagle quarterback Shai Werts. “They are a good team with a good offensive line, and defensive line. I like the way quarterback Levi Lewis plays, and I follow his game. It will definitely be a challenge, but we are prepared this week and ready to go.”

The 19th ranked Rajun Cajuns beat Georgia Southern 37-24 last year at Paulson Stadium. They are currently 2-0 with wins over then #23 ranked Iowa State 31-14, and a 34-31 win in overtime last week against Georgia State.

Louisiana is led by quarterback Levi Lewis who threw for over 3,000 yards and 26 touchdowns last season. The Cajuns also feature running back Elijah Mitchell who rushed for 1,147 yards and 16 touchdowns last season.

“Louisiana is a talented, well coached 60 minute football team who believes they will win,” said Lunsford. “You don’t see many weaknesses on their team. It all starts with their quarterback Levi Lewis who can throw the ball, and extend plays. If you are able to contain him now you have to contend with their really tough running back crew. 

“Their receivers are good, and we are young in the secondary,” said Lunsford. “We have got to get better from game one to game two in that area, and make sure we are ready to go up against some really good receivers. We know Louisiana is going to make plays, but we have to be able to respond and make more plays than they do.”

The Eagles and Ragin'  Cajuns are set for a 12:00 start. The game can be seen on ESPN2.