Georgia Southern’s defense allows 454 yards in Senior Day loss to Troy

Senior linebacker Tomarcio Reese goes in for a tackle. Reese led the team with nine total tackles. 

Ryan Kostensky

On Senior Day, a heavily senior-led Georgia Southern defense was thrashed by Troy, 35-21, as the Eagles fell to 7-3 on the season.

The GS defense came out and punched Troy in the mouth in the first quarter, holding the Trojans to just three points. It was senior defensive end Logan Hunt who forced a fumble, which was recovered by redshirt-freshman safety Kendrick Duncan Jr.

Already leading 7-3 at the time, GS drove down the field and scored a few plays later after the Trojan turnover. Despite the loss, the Eagles won the turnover battle, forcing two fumbles during the course of the game. 

“[Causing turnovers] is very big to us because that’s what represents our defense,” redshirt-sophomore inside linebacker Rashad Byrd said. “You want to make turnovers, you know, give the offense a chance to score points. Once we show people we can turn the ball over, that gives us momentum in a way.”

The Eagles got big contributions from redshirt-sophomore outside linebacker Randy Wade Jr. and redshirt-senior defensive end Deshon Cooper. Wade Jr. accounted for one and a half tackles for loss in the first half of play, while Cooper accounted for one TFL.

As a whole the GS defense only allowed 29 total Trojan yards, a credit to the offense that controlled the pace of play in the first quarter.

The second quarter was completely opposite than the first, however, where the Eagles relinquished the lead and would never find it again.

Troy rolled back from their 11-point deficit with relative ease, exploiting the GS secondary with deep passes. In fact, on two plays in a row, Trojan quarterback Sawyer Smith completed to 40+ yard passes to receiver Luke Whittemore.

Smith threw for 186 yards in the second quarter alone after throwing for only eight first quarter yards.

The Eagle defense stayed on the field for a majority of the quarter, largely due to the fact that the Trojans ran 25 plays on offense to GS’ 12 total.

Despite not scoring any points offensively, the defense only held Troy to 14 points, and kept the Eagles close in the game, trailing by three going into the half.

“I mean we’re just gonna go do what we do every week,” Byrd said. Go to work. Play hard, practice hard and as long as we do what we need to do I think we’ll come up on top.”

For the Eagles defensively, the third quarter mimicked their second quarter performance, as the Troy offense continued to roll.

The first few possessions for each side resulted in three-and-outs, but Troy was able to break through the scoring first with a field goal. GS saw their three-point deficit gradually grow as the Trojans were in the middle of a 32-unanswered scoring deluge.

After allowing nearly 200 yards through the air in the second quarter alone, the defense was able to settle in a little bit and only allow 77 from the Troy quarterback.

With the game seemingly in hand for Troy, the Eagle defense spent most of their time defending the run. Uncharacteristically, GS surrendered more rushing yards than the team rushed for offensively, being out-gained in every quarter but the first.

The defense won the turnover battle but was unable to translate that into winning the game, but as has been the case all year, GS continues to find ways to take the ball away from opposing offenses. Throughout the course of the game, the defense allowed a total of 454 yards, 314 of which came through the air.

After the loss, Head Coach Chad Lunsford talked about what his team needs to do to right the ship going into their final two games of the season.

“I expect this football team to come back out and go to work,” Lunsford said. “We’ve got to make sure that we go into these road games better than what we were in the previous road games.”

GS travels north to Conway, South Carolina next weekend where they square off against the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers, a team they lost to a season ago.

With the location of the Eagles’ bowl still up for grabs, Saturday’s matchup is an important game. Kickoff is set for 5 p.m. Eastern.

Ryan Kostensky, The George-Anne Sports Reporter, [email protected]