PREVIEW: Georgia Southern football looking for redemption in conference opener

Kaitlin Sells

The Georgia Southern football team will open up conference play against the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns on Saturday, being slated as a three-point underdog.

Louisiana has seen quite a successful season so far, having the momentum of a three-game winning streak on their side as they travel to Paulson. The Ragin Cajuns have already put up impressive numbers, being ranked third nationally in rushing yards per game (323.8) and fourth nationally in total offense.

“Obviously, they were a good football team last year, being the western side champs in the Sun Belt and playing in the championship game,” Head Coach Chad Lunsford said. “I see an offensive line that really likes to come off the football and establish a run. There’s two running backs that are really good.”

Set to start in the running back position for UL are either senior Raymond Calais, junior Elijah Mitchell or redshirt-junior Trey Ragas. Ragas has led the team so far this season, being the Eagle’s biggest threat after already notching four rushing touchdowns and 417 total yards rushing. 

Quarterback-wise the Eagle defense can expect and prepare for Levi Lewis, who is a double threat as he finds success in both throwing the ball and running with it.

“[Lewis is] very athletic, can throw and run,” Lunsford said. “And you know that usually surfaces problems when you have a quarterback that can do both.”

The senior has thrown seven touchdowns and rushed for two, as well as averaging 203 passing yards per game. 

The Eagles have had two weeks to prepare for the Ragin’ Cajuns, and are eager to get back onto the gridiron.

“They really came back last week,” Lunsford said in reference to the loss to Minnesota. “We had three practices last week, started our game prep last night for Louisiana, and the guys energy level was way up there. This is definitely a positive football team that has a lot of hurt right now.”

While most of the team is ready to hit the field, there are still concerns about the question of who will be filling the role of the quarterback on the offense. Either redshirt-junior Shai Werts or redshirt-freshman Justin Tomlin are projected to start, and it depends on Werts’ day-to-day injury status. 

“I was impressed with Shai last week,” Lunsford said. “During the bye week practices, we slowly progressed him in. Everything we were asking him to do, he was able to do it. (Sunday) night, he looked sharp. (Tuesday) and Wednesday will be very telling.”

Tomlin is leading the team with 193 rushing yards and 162 passing yards so far on the season. He has also rushed for two touchdowns and averages 6.7 yards per carry.

The GS defense is also ready to get back under those stadium lights and continue to perform the way they have this season. The defense has more than proven they are a force to be reckoned with after putting up two defensive touchdowns on Power 5 school Minnesota. 

Someone who hasn’t produced too much, but came into the season expecting a lot is senior cornerback Kindle Vildor. He hasn’t shown much notable action, only logging three tackles on the season and one pass breakup. 

Facing off against UL, this could be an opportunity for Vildor to step it up, especially since they’re a pass heavy team.

The Eagles haven’t faced the Ragin’ Cajuns since 2017, where Lunsford was promoted from an interim coaching position after GS beat UL 34-24. 

Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. Saturday in Paulson Stadium.

Kaitlin Sells, The George-Anne Managing Sports Editor,