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Shaky start for Eagles
GS Football
Georgia Southern nose tackle C.J. Wright chases Garner-Webb quarterback Bailey Fisher in the first quarter at Paulson Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 3. - photo by By SCOTT BRYANT/staff

To paraphrase Erk Russell, "30 is more than 25, and I’ll take that every time." Saturday the Georgia Southern Eagles managed a five-point victory over FCS opponent Gardner Webb. While the win is better than a loss afterward in the locker room players and coaches weren’t exactly celebrating.

“The great thing was when I got into the locker room, I didn’t have to talk about why I was disappointed,” said Lunsford. “The guys were already talking about it. They knew this was not acceptable and this is not the way Georgia Southern football is going to be.”

“There were a couple guys that led the talk after the game that this wasn’t acceptable,” said Eagle senior linebacker Benz Josue. “I think the whole team realized that was the case. Everyone wants to win, and we want to be a part of a championship team. We know we can do better, and we are ready to do that this week.”

There was a little sense of Deja vu from last year for Eagle fans as Georgia Southern opened the 2020 season with a 27-26 win over FCS opponent Campbell in a game they had to come from behind to win. 

“We know we are always going to get everyone’s best shot,” said Lunsford. “The thing is everybody else needs to start getting Georgia Southern’s best shot. We don’t need to let these guys hang around. We had an opportunity to blow this thing out, and we didn’t. That is not any disrespect to Gardner Webb, they did a good job, but we had a chance to blow that game out and we didn’t do it.”

Despite having 85 full scholarships compared to just 63 for an FCS school coach Lunsford felt the Eagles may have run out of gas in the second half where they were outscored 19-10.

“I felt like we when we were up 20-6 in the first half, I felt like we were in a good spot coming out of halftime,” said Lunsford. “It was discouraging to get outscored 19-10 in the second half. We ended up settling for a couple field goals and that is not Georgia Southern football. We have to take care of business in the second half.”

One of the biggest question marks entering the game was who would start at quarterback. That question was answered on the Eagles first offensive series as Tulane transfer Amare Jones took his first snap at quarterback since his senior year in high school over four years ago.

Jones rushed for 98 yards and one touchdown and was 4-7 through the air for 45 yards. Jones shared snaps with true freshman Cam Ransom who finished the game going 8-13 for 90 yards and one touchdown while rushing for nine yards on three carries.

“Neither of them played perfect, but I think both of those guys played fairly well for playing their first game at quarterback in a college football game,” said Lunsford. “Each of them has a different skill set and each of them bring something different to our offense. Going forward we have to see which one gives us the best chance to win but I think both of us give us a great chance to win and we will play both of them this week.”

While he was happy with freshman kicker Britton Williams going 3-3 on field goal attempts Lunsford said he was frustrated with the Eagles having to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns and not putting teams away when they have a chance.

“We have to find a way to make them tap out and find a way to put teams away sooner,” said Lunsford. “We have a tough game coming up with FAU this week and if we think tonight’s effort will be good enough for this Saturday, we are sadly mistaken.”

As for the Eagle defense Lunsford was unhappy with the big plays the defense allowed and was also disappointed in the effort on the Bulldogs final score of the game. He was pleased with the effort on the last FAU possession when the Eagles finally put an end to the game with some aggressive defensive plays. 

“We gave up two pass plays that really kept them in the game and gave them the idea they could play with us,” said Lunsford. “I thought the defense was playing pretty well with the exception of their two long touchdown plays. In the second half Garnder Webb was able to put a couple drives together which was concerning.”

“I do believe in our guys, and I believe in our staff,” said Lunsford. “I believe we can correct this and get this right because the guys in the locker room were not happy with that win. Any time you have a team that is not satisfied after a win, that is a good thing.”

The Eagles travel to Florida Atlantic Saturday for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff in Boca Raton.