The Georgia Southern Eagles are one step away from being bowl eligible and will be looking for their third straight Sun Belt victory this Saturday as they host South Alabama.
The Eagles own a commanding 7-1 overall record against the Jaguars, but saw South Alabama break their seven-game win streak last year with an impressive 41-14 drubbing of the Eagles in Mobile.
South Alabama comes into this Saturday’s matchup with a record of 6-2 overall and are 3-1 in Sun Belt play. The Eagles are 5-3 and 2-2 and coach Clay Helton is ready for a battle with the Jaguars.
“We have a great South Alabama team coming in here Saturday who are extremely well coached,” said Helton. “They have one of the best defenses not only in our league but in the entire country. They also have an offense who really knows how to put points on the board. It’s going to be a great challenge but we are grateful to be back in Paulson Stadium.”
Helton is as impressed by the South Alabama wins this year as he is with how they played in their only two losses.
“Their two losses were by a combined five points to a top 25 team in UCLA and the team who is currently leading the West division of the Sun Belt in Troy,” said Helton. “This is a really good football team that I would compare to James Madison wo came in here ranked 25 in the nation.”
The South Alabama defense is ranked No. 16 in the nation in scoring defense as they surrender just over 17 points per game. The Eagle offense comes in as the fourth leading passing offense with 338 yards per game and ranked No. 20 in the nation in scoring at nearly 37 points per contest. Helton knows it will be a challenge to put those numbers up against a defense like the Jaguars have.
“They have an elite defensive squad,” said Helton. “They are a top-25 defense and are extremely athletic. They put pressure both on your quarterback as well as getting in space and competing against the deep ball. On our side I really like what our offensive staff has done in the last two games in showing our philosophy of if you are going to load the box, we will throw it 64 times. If you want to play frop-8 coverage we will run it 50 times.”
The Eagle defense did a much better job in their last contest against Old Dominion and will need a similar effort against a balanced Jaguar offense who has rushed for 15 touchdowns and passed for 14 scores.
“We feel like South Alabama is a really good team on offense,” said Eagle defensive back Anthony Wilson. “They do a lot of shifts and motion so defensively we are going to have to communicate which is a major thing we are emphasizing this week at practice. We need to make sure everyone is on the same page and doing their job.”
The Jaguar offense is led by coordinator Major Applewhite who like Helton played quarterback in college as a starter at Texas. South Alabama quarterback Carter Bradley comes in having thrown for 2,088 yards and 14 touchdowns. On the ground their leading rusher is La’Damian Webb with 667 yards rushing and nine touchdowns.
“I have always been a fan of Major Applewhite’s offense,” said Helton. “He has done a great job of educating their quarterback Carter Bradley in his decision making, especially in the RPO game. Bradley does a great job of diagnosing fronts and coverages. I feel like their RPO game is elite and they make you cover every inch of grass on the field.
Saturday is military appreciation day at Paulson Stadium and the Eagles will also honor their Hall of Fame class of 2022 which includes former football standouts Taz Dixon, Alex Mash and David Young. Game time is scheduled for 4:00.