The Georgia Southern Eagles can be forgiven if they are a bit antsy this week.
When the Eagles were last seen on a field, they were using a blocked field goal and a scoop-and-score to mount a thrilling fourth quarter comeback, only to give back the lead and the game when the defense couldn’t stop a last-minute drive by Minnesota.
Instead of getting right back to the grind, the Eagles went into their bye week. There was plenty to be worked on for a team that is now 1-2, but with Louisiana on its way to town for both teams’ Sun Belt Conference opener this Saturday at Paulson Stadium, everyone is itching for its next chance.
“There’s a lot of energy around here,” GS coach Chad Lunsford said. “And it’s a lot of positive energy. We had three practices during our bye week. There are still things that we’re working on because we’re not playing our best football yet, but we’re going in the right direction and we’re going to be ready to pack out Paulson on Saturday.”
Despite the pair of early losses, Georgia Southern still has all of its season goals lying ahead and still within reach.
One of those goals is to win its division and play for a conference championship. A tough schedule and an improved conference doesn’t leave any team with much margin for error, making Saturday’s matchup between the Eagles and Ragin’ Cajuns - which won the Sun Belt West last season - one that carries big postseason implications despite the early date on the calendar.
The Cajuns (3-1) definitely look the part of a team ready to make another run at a conference title. Louisiana gave Mississippi State all it wanted in the season opener. And no one has slowed it down since as the team is averaging 46.3 points per game.
If the Eagles want to slow down their opponent, they’ll need to win a battle of strength on strength. Louisiana is using dual-threat quarterback Levi Lewis and a host of very athletic running backs to run past the competition to the tune of 326 rushing yards per game.
On the other side of the ball, the Cajuns will find a Georgia Southern rush defense that is allowing just 89 rushing yards per game.
“They love to run. We love to stop the run,” GS linebacker Rashad Byrd said.
Byrd said that he expects the team to be up for the game and that it won’t take Monday’s revelation that the Eagles are 3-point underdogs to do so.
“Man, we play every game with a chip on our shoulder. And it’s going to be great to play in front of our fans. The ‘Power of Paulson’ is real.”
While most of the Eagles will be excited to be in a game for the first time in two weeks, the team is also hopeful that Shai Werts will see game action for the first time since opening night.
Werts, a three-year starter, was knocked out of the LSU game in the second quarter. While the team initially cleared him to return to action in Baton Rouge, he has yet to take another snap, although he did dress for the Minnesota game.
Information on Werts' status has been minimal over the last few weeks, although Lunsford offered some promise on Monday.
"Shai has practiced and we've been pleased with what we've seen. He's doing everything we're asking him to do.
"There are more things we need to see over the next couple days to hopefully keep him on track to play."
Saturday's kickoff is set for 6 p.m. and will air on ESPN+.