The Georgia Southern Eagles have grown weary of answering questions about why the offense and defense has struggled so far this season and are anxious to see if they can quiet some of the naysayers as they open up Sun Belt conference play hosting the 2-1 Louisianna Ragin' Cajuns Saturday at 6:00 at Paulson Stadium.
The Eagles have had issues on all three of their games but in particular the last two games against Floriday Atlantic and Arkansas both of which were on the road. Players and coaches are hoping the success they have had at Paulson Stadium, which is second to only the University of Alabama all-time, will pay off Saturday.
“Our team is eager to play Saturday and want to perform well for Eagle Nation,” said coach Chad Lunsford. “Every play we are looking for our team to win their overall one-on-one battle all the way through the end of the fourth quarter. That is what it is going to take to beat Louisiana.”
“Being in front of our won crowd they bring a lot of energy to us,” said senior defensive lineman Justin Ellis. “Being on the road you are not in your regular routine and traveling can mess up your vibe. I think being at home definitely gives us an extra advantage.”
With Tomlin back for the second straight game at quarterback the offense should show improvement. Players have said they have confidence in all their signal callers but admit having him at quarterback should make a difference.
“It’s nice to have that kind of experience back there at quarterback,” said Eagle tight end Beau Johnson. “It is definitely good to have J.T. back. He is very experienced, and he knows what he is doing back there. He sees a few things back there that the younger guys may not see.”
On offense, quarterback Cam Ransom injured his ankle against FAU but played some Saturday against Arkansas. Tomlin took a few nasty hits against Arkansas as well but nothing that should prevent him from playing Saturday. Amare Jones left the game early against Arkansas and was in a boot for the second half, but Lunsford is optimistic about his availability Saturday.
“Injuries will never be an excuse for us here,” said Lunsford. “We teach next man up mentality and that you have to be ready at any given moment. On offense Amare Jones x-rays were negative and everything seems fine. We held him out of practice Sunday and will monitor his progress, but I expect fully that he will play. J.D. King did practice Sunday night and we have been slowly progressing him. We have been targeting this week to have him back. The one thing I caution with J.D. is he is not in game shape so we have to be smart with him.”
As for the game itself the two teams have met four times and the Ragin’ Cajuns own a 3-1 series lead. Last year the Eagles held an 18-17 lead before Louisiana kicker Nate Snyder hit a career long 53-yard field goal as time expired to win the game for the Ragin’ Cajuns 20-18.
This year the Cajuns come in with a 2-1 record. Louisiana lost their season opener at Texas 38-18, but have won their last two with a 27-24 victory over Nicholls and a 49-14 win over Ohio on Sept. 16.
The Louisiana offense is led by quarterback Levi Lewis who has thrown for 798 yards and four touchdowns. The backfield has been steady and balanced as far as carries go as Chris Smith leads the team with 171 yards and two touchdowns, while Amani Bailey has 130 yards rushing. Montre Johnson is more of their goal line back as he has 122 and four rushing touchdowns. John Stephens has been Lewis’ favorite target in the red zone as he has six receptions with three going for touchdowns.
“My initial opinion is they throw the ball a little bit more than they have in the past,” said Lunsford. “They have really good running backs, and they still want to establish the run, but I feel like they are showcasing Levi Lewis a little more at quarterback and throwing the ball more as they are closer to 50/50 throw and run.”
The Eagles and Ragin’ Cajuns are scheduled for a 6:00 start Saturday at Paulson Stadium.