For the Georgia Southern Eagles, Saturday's matchup with Troy was personal. The Eagles came in having lost to Troy in each of the past three seasons, and the games haven’t even been close. Head Coach Chad Lunsford said he challenged his team prior to the Eagles 20-13 victory, to make sure a fourth straight victory would not happen.
“There was a lot of emotion in this one,” said Lunsford. “We haven’t beaten them since I have been head coach and frankly, I was tired of it. We have not only lost three straight, but we have been embarrassed by them. They put up a lot of points, and we didn’t do anything to keep ourselves in the game.”
For the second straight game the offense scored two touchdowns in the second half, and it proved to be enough as the Eagles defense held the high scoring Troy offense to only two field goals.
“I can’t say enough about our defense,” said Lunsford. “They only gave up six points all day, which was amazing. They handled the tempo well, and I think our defensive backs did a tremendous job of getting on their receivers. I also thought our linebackers and defensive line did a great job of getting pressure on the quarterback.”
The Georgia Southern offense should get some credit for helping to keep the Troy offense off balance as well. While the Eagles put up over 400 yards of total offense, they only scored two touchdowns, but they held the ball for over 42:47 to only 17:13 for the Trojans.
“We were very productive yardage wise with our offense,” said Lunsford. “We really tired Troy out. The 42 minutes of possession time was unreal. We did a tremendous job of keeping the ball away from their offense especially in the first half. We would like to get more points out of that, we have to find a way to get those seven points instead of three when we get into the red zone.”
Lunsford also praised quarterback Shai Werts who finished 12-13 passing for 85 yards, and rushed for 50 yards including the game winning touchdown.
“I thought other than the pick-six, Shai really ran the offense well,” said Lunsford. “I thought he did a really good job in the pass game, he hit all his passes and got us in the right play calls. Troy is known for jumping in and out of defenses, and I think he did a good job of checking in and out of plays.
The Eagles have a senior heavy class, but it’s safe to say the future looks bright. Saturday senior running backs Wesley Kennedy and J.D. King both left the game due to injuries. Redshirt freshman Gerald Green stepped right in and rushed for 109 yards in the second half, including a 69-yard score that really turned the momentum.
“I felt like players were thinking what are we going to do next with Welsey and J.D. out,” said Lunsford. “I think Logan Wright, Matt LaRoche and obviously Gerald Green did a tremendous job of going next man up. I knew if we ever got a chance to get Gerald on the field and he gets some touches people are going to go wild.”
“When I saw both my teammates go down, I am thinking next man up,” said Green. “I said to myself if your chance comes you have to make a play. On the touchdown I saw the hole open, I hit it as fast as I could and all I was thinking was don’t fall, don’t fall. It was really a dream come true. I never knew when I would score my first touchdown, but it happened today and I am just speechless and thank God.”
On the defensive side of the ball fairly unheralded redshirt freshman cornerback Derrick Canteen has made quite a name for himself this season. Canteen leads the team with four interceptions, and had two crucial picks Saturday.
“He may not have had the accolades coming out of high school that others did, but I think those stars they give don’t always tell the whole story,” said Lunsford. “We knew what we were getting in this guy. He has the skill set, and he is a worker. He is never satisfied. He works hard every day, and after practice he stays out there and works even more. He reminds me of Kindle Vildor each and every day the way he works at his craft.”
“Our front seven have been doing a great job of getting pressure and helping us out in the secondary,” said Canteen. “On the first interception Kendrick Duncan did a great job slowing the guy up, and I saw the ball in the air and just attacked the ball. On the second interception it was late in the game, and I knew they would try to attack the short field. Coach Sloan called up a great scheme, Reynard Ellis hit the guy and kind of took the ball up in the air and I was just in the right spot at the right time.”
The Eagles are now 5-2 overall and 3-2 in conference play. Up Georgia Southern will look to improve to 5-0 at Paulson Stadium as they host Texas State Saturday at 3:30.