In a game that was contested from start to finish, the Georgia Southern defense outplayed that of Eastern Michigan, leading the Eagles to their second bowl victory in program history with a 23-21 win.
GS shut out EMU in the first half, and limited the Eagles from the north to just seven points in the first half overall, all while the team lead 17-7. EMU simply couldn’t move the ball like they wanted to in the first half of play, ending three out of their first four drives punting the ball to the Eagles of the South.
The streak of recording a turnover in 20 straight games was snapped, both teams were able to play relatively clean football throughout the game. The defense was present and caused havoc on EMU when needed the most. EMU was limited to 93 total yards in the first half, and went 1-4 on third down, while GS amassed 230 total yards, going 4-7 on third downs.
After the game, senior defensive end Logan Hunt talked about his mindset on stopping opposing offenses, and how it came to fruition over the course of the game.
“My motto, just for the whole season, is always reset,” Hunt said. “Have a short memory, forget plays and just reset and move on to the next one, so that played a big piece in tonight’s victory.”
Leading by 10 points in the second half, it seemed as if GS was primed to run away with the game, and win their second bowl game in blowout fashion, much like 2015’s GoDaddy Bowl where they throttled Bowling Green 58-21.
But EMU had different ideas on the matter. Eastern used just one play, a 75-yard touchdown pass, to silent the GS fan base which had been quite raucous throughout the first half. EMU dominated the third quarter, out-gaining GS 128 to 39, all while only scoring seven points. The story of the third quarter was chunk plays for the MAC opponent, which happened much to the dismay of GS.
One of the Eagle defenders targeted early and often was senior junior college transfer, Sean Freeman. After the game, an emotional Freeman talked about how the defense was able to recover from the offensive onslaught EMU tried to bring on them.
“We had to just keep our composure, that’s the big thing,” Freeman said.”We had to keep our composure and just keep playing football, and we did in the second half.”
The play of the game for the GS defense came early in the fourth quarter, but played a huge factor in the outcome of the game. With EMU in position for what would have been a rather easy field goal, head coach Chris Creighton elected to go for it on fourth and two, but the GS defense stood pat and forced an incomplete pass. The teams wouldn’t know it yet, but the field goal could’ve been all EMU needed to win the game.
GS only trailed for just over three and a half minutes in the entire game, and the defense was a huge factor in that, just as they have been all season. Out of EMU’s nine drives in the game, five ended up in punts, while one ended up as a turnover on downs.
GS finishes the season 10-3, the first time ever since the team has been in the FBS, and improve to 2-0 all time in bowl games.
In front of a packed house, with true blue fans everywhere the eye could see, GS delivered an all-time classic that will be talked about for years to come. Eagle Nation showed up, and Head Coach Chad Lunsford and the boys showed out.
After the game, Lunsford talked about the legacy that this senior class will leave on the program for years to come.
“You go back to it, and yes they would’ve wanted to win a Sun Belt Championship,” Lunsford said. “They put themselves in position to do that but we couldn’t get it done. But they never quit, they never gave up, and now they go down in Georgia Southern history as the first Georgia Southern football team to win 10 games at the FBS level, so I think they’ve got a strong hold on their history part of Georgia Southern.”
Ryan Kostensky, The George-Anne Sports Reporter, email@example.com