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Eagles look to bounce back after loss in Sun Belt opener
GS Football
Georgia Southern running back Jalen White (25) sprints past the Coastal Carolina defanse and into open space during Saturday's game in Conway, S.C.

A defensive battle between Georgia Southern and Coastal Carolina quickly turned into a shoot-out over the last 16:05 of the game including three lead changes in the final six minutes. The Eagles took a 30-28 lead on a 20-yard Alex Raynor field goal, but the Chanticleers got an ESPN play of the day run by C.J. Beasley who hurdled an Eagle defender on a 24-yard touchdown with 38 seconds remaining as Coastal held off an impressive Eagle run to win 34-30 Saturday night in Conway S.C. 

“I really felt like it was like a great heavyweight fight with the way the game went back and forth,” said Helton. “Coming out of that game if you had told me we outrushed Coastal Carolina and the turnovers were tied I would have told you we won the game. I thought we did a great job in the first half eliminating explosive plays as they only had one. They had six in the second half and five in the last 12 minutes of the game. Coach Ellis and the offense did a great job adjusting in the second half and we had five scoring drives. The trouble was the final two were field goals. The field goals instead of touchdowns at the end of the game proved to be the difference.” 

The Eagles had the ball on the Coastal Carolina 3-yard line with just under 2:30 left in the game. The Eagles were unable to get any closer after losing ground on a run, an incomplete pass and a run to get back to the original line of scrimmage. Facing fourth and three coach Helton elected to go for a 20-ayrd Alex Raynor field goal which gave Georgia Southern a 30-28 lead. 

“There were a few things that went into the decision to kick the field goal rather than go for the touchdown,” said Helton. “They were out of timeouts which put them in a tough situation. We felt there should have been a run off on our incomplete pass at that stage in the game, but there was a mechanical issue that prevented the additional 25 seconds from running off the clock which should have helped us. We had a field goal kicker who was perfect to that point and we felt it was the right call.” 

The Chanticleers benefitted from a questionable pass interference call on third and 10 from their own 28-yard line and took advantage of that call by stringing together a few key plays.

“Credit to Coastal for making two big plays on that drive,” said Helton “They had that long pass to Brown when we were in man coverage that went for 33-yards. Beasley then had an exceptional run for the touchdown.” 

The Eagle defense held the high-powered Coastal offense in check for most of the first half and limited the Chanticleers to only seven points. The second half proved to be a different story as Coastal scored 27 points including 20 in the fourth quarter. When asked what the big difference was in the first and second half Helton had a quick response. 

“Grayson McCall is what happened to us in the second half,” said Helton. “It was our first chance to see him and he is an exceptional player. I felt those were two of the better quarterbacks in our league, and two of the better quarterbacks in the country playing Saturday. I felt like our defensive front probably played their best game and he made some great throws even though we put some pressure on him he made some great throws down the stretch. We put our kids in some one-on-one matchups and their kids made some plays.” 

The Eagles made their fair share of plays as well and were led by junior running back Jalen White who rushed for 145 yards and one touchdown brining his season totals to 455 yards and seven touchdowns on the season. Kyle Vantrease was 26-43 for 284 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Vantrease has currently thrown for 1,574 and 10 touchdowns with seven interceptions this season. Vantrease is currently tied for fifth in a single season in touchdown passes and is currently sixth in passing yards in season. The Eagle record for touchdown passes in a season is 15 by Antonio Henton who also owns the season yardage total at 1,852 in 2008. 

While Vantrease is on pace to break a few school records, Helton has been most pleased by the production of the Eagle running backs which he feels has been the most productive group after a slow start against Morgan State.  

“They are really doing some nice things,” said Helton. “They were challenged after the first game and I thought they could play better. Ever since then they have really stepped up. The past two games we have played against really good running football teams and have outrushed our opponent. A run game is the best friend to a quarterback, and credit to our offensive line for doing a great job giving them a chance to run.” 

The Eagles are now 4-2 overall and 0-1 in Sun Belt play. Up next Georgia Southern travels to Georgia State and the Panthers are coming off an impressive 34-14-win Saturday against Army.