Eagles open conference play with a loss despite impressive Werts return

Kaitlin Sells

STATESBORO — Redshirt-junior Shai Werts returned to the field for the first time since LSU, and like LSU the quarterback fell unsuccessful in bringing home a win for the Eagles. 

The Ragin’ Cajuns defeated the Eagles 37-24 in the conference opener for both teams at Paulson Stadium Saturday night. 

With two weeks to prepare due to a previous bye week, the Eagles were excited to hit the gridiron once again. But that excitement did not seem to be enough as both Eagle offense and defense seemed to come out sluggish. 

“We were fighting toe to toe,” Head Coach Chad Lunsford said regarding the performance. “A big stat, 14 to three in the fourth quarter. That is not the way you finish…we got out-rushed. We’re a running football team and we got out-rushed and then couldn’t keep up. You know, we got to learn to score in the red zone, score touchdowns, not just field goals. That’s what it’s going to take.”

Werts has not seen any official playing time since being injured in the first contest of the season against LSU, and redshirt-freshman quarterback Justin Tomlin seemed to fill the position for the Eagles with ease. Many were surprised to see Werts in the starting line up considering how well Tomlin has been performing in the quarterback slot. 

Werts ran for 93 yards and completed 37 passing yards compared to UL’s quarterback Levi Lewis’ 27 rushing yards and 165 passing yards. 

While a disappointing return to the field for Werts, there were flashes of brilliance from the redshirt-junior. Werts saw a few first down runs, including a long of 21 yards, but fell victim to three sacks.

“He did make some plays,” Lunsford said about Werts’ returning performance. “Probably a little rusty on some things but you know, managed very well.”

The Eagle defense also seemed slower on the ball than usual, allowing the Cajuns to run up 37 points on them and 440 net offensive yards. 

One eagle on the defense that looked better than past performances this season was graduate student safety Donald Rutledge Jr. He lead the Eagles on defense, logging 10 total tackles and one pass breakup and was responsible for many behind the scenes stops.

Lunsford now has four days to decide who will be starting in the quarterback position as the team will be traveling to play South Alabama next. 

The Eagles will be back in action and will be looking to break their now two-game loss streak traveling to Mobile Oct. 3. 

Kaitlin Sells, The George-Anne Managing Sports Editor, gasports@georgiasouthern.edu