Costly turnovers, a lack of offensive production and a second half breakdown on defense was too much for the Georgia Southern Eagle football team to overcome as they lost their third straight game, falling to Georgia State on homecoming Saturday by a score of 21-14.
Late in the fourth quarter a tremendous punt by Anthony Beck, followed by a solid stand by the Eagle defense, resulted in the best field position of the night for the Eagles. The offense was able to take advantage of the field position, and Logan Wright’s touchdown run with 1:39 tied the game at 14-14.
The Eagle defense then allowed the Panthers to quickly march down the field for 73-yards on one short pass and six running plays capped by a 23-yard Jaymest Williams touchdown run which proved to be the game winner.
“I thought we played hard and didn’t give up,” said Eagle interim head coach Kevin Whitley. “On the last drive I felt we were in good coverage but we gave up a few big plays with their quarterback scrambling, and then we got beat with the veer inside for the touchdown. We have to be able to tackle better and we are in a profession where close doesn’t count.”
For a fairly low scoring game there was a lot of offensive production by both teams. The Panthers put up nearly 400 yards of offense, while the Eagles had nearly 500 yards of offense, but also lost the turnover battle 2-0 as quarterback Justin Tomlin was picked off twice deep in Georgia State territory. The Eagles were also unable to punch the ball into the end zone with two chances from the one-yard line early in the game.
“We had plenty of opportunities to score more points but we failed to do that,” said Whitley. “When you are in a close game with a good team you just can’t do that. You also have to be able to punch it in when you get to the one-yard line. We had a couple chances and we have to find a way to get in.”
Tomlin finished the game going 18-27 for 276 yards with two interceptions and one touchdown. Tomlin’s touchdown pass was the first of the season and his two interceptions brought his total on the year to seven. Tomlin now has six interceptions in his last three games and despite his struggles especially near the red-zone freshman quarterback Cam Ransom remained on the bench the entire game.
“I thought overall J.T. made enough plays to give us a chance to win,” said Whitley. “Cam is a good player and it definitely doesn’t hurt to give him an opportunity but coach Ruse didn’t make the change so we just went with J.T.”
Whitley went on to say personnel matters in game are being left up to the coordinators.
“He (Ruse) makes those decisions like who will play the quarterback position as he works with those guys every day in terms of game planning,” said Whitley. “Those things do come up at halftime or in between series but never in the middle of the series.”
A couple of injury notes from Saturday’s game. There was a scary moment in the second half as Eagle cornerback Tyler Bride took a knee to the helmet and remained on the field awaiting medical attention. Bride was immobilized and placed on a stretcher and carted off in an ambulance. Whitley was relieved to find out later that it was only a concussion.
“Tyler had a head injury during the game that looked very serious when I ran out there,” said Whitley. “The good thing is we found out it was only a concussion which was great news for him and his family. He had another concussion earlier in the year and he will miss the game this Saturday.”
The other key injury from Saturday was Eagle defensive lineman C.J. Wright who left in the third quarter with a knee injury. According to Whitley they were optimistic it wasn’t too severe as there was little swelling. Wright was due to have an MRI Monday afternoon and results were expected on Tuesday.
The Eagles host No. 21 ranked Coastal Carolina Saturday at 6 p.m. at Paulson Stadium.