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Georgia Southern hopes to get back on track
GS Football
Georgia Southern's Wesley Kennedy III dives into the end zone for a game-winning touchdown in a Sept. 29, 2018 game against Arkansas State at Paulson Stadium. Kennedy will suit up for the first time this season as he and the Eagles visit South Alabama in hopes of getting things turned around after a 1-3 start. - photo by By SCOTT BRYANT

A road game on a short week following a 1-3 start isn’t a very appealing proposition for many teams. Georgia Southern finds itself in that sort of tough early-season spot, but it is also heading to the Sun Belt venue - and opponent - in which it has found the most success.


The Eagles (1-3, 0-1 Sun Belt) travel to Mobile for a nationally televised game against South Alabama (1-4, 0-1) with both teams needing a win to jump start their season. The game will be played at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, where the Eagles have never lost.


Georgia Southern scored its first ever Sun Belt victory there in 2014 and defeated the Jaguars on another visit in 2016. The Eagles also invaded Ladd-Peebles in 2015, defeating Bowling Green in the GoDaddy Bowl for the schools first appearance and victory in a bowl game.


The Jaguars in general have been just as hospitable as they sport an 0-5 lifetime mark against the Eagles.


But it’s a new season - and one that isn’t going as planned for the Eagles so far.


It might have been expected that Georgia Southern would lose its two early road games at Power 5 conference opponents, but the Eagles let their game at Minnesota slip away in the final minutes and then watched as Louisiana-Lafayette ran by them on their home turf last week in their conference opener.


“It’s time to hit the switch,” GS coach Chad Lunsford said. “We’re 1-3. That’s not the expectation here. You can pick out positives through the first four games, but at the end you’re 1-3 and that’s not good enough.”


Much like last season, the Eagles have been slow to get things started. Georgia Southern has been outscored 45-13 in the first quarter of its games this season. The offense has been marred by injuries, but the coaching staff is in agreement that injuries can’t affect how they get things going to begin games.


The offense will get a shot in the arm as Wesley Kennedy III makes his season debut. The junior slot back missed the first four games due to a suspension and figures to make an immediate impact as he was the team’s most versatile threat, one of the best kick returners in the Sun Belt, and quarterback Shai Werts’ favorite pass target last season.


“He’s a big playmaker for us and has shown that the last two years,” Lunsford said. “Obviously our team is excited to have him back. He’s a guy that brings a lot of juice.”


Along with Kennedy’s return, the Eagles also want to see some improvement from Werts. The third-year starter was knocked out of the first half of the season opener and missed the next two games. He returned against Louisiana and was effective while protecting the ball in the Eagles’ option offense, but the expectations are that he can be a game-changer.


“I felt good out there,” Werts said. “I was a little rusty and made some mistakes.Right now, it’s about growth. We’ve been through this before, so we know how to deal with adversity and we have a lot of football left to play.”


Any improvement by the offense might also be helped along by a USA defense that has yet to hold an FBS opponent under 30 points.


While an 0-1 start to conference play wasn’t what the Eagles had in mind, they can easily get back into the race. Four of the Sun Belt East’s five teams have 0-1 conference marks, so a win tonight would go a long way towards moving up in the standings and getting momentum headed back in the right direction.