5 takeaways from Georgia Southern’s 38-7 loss at Clemson

Redshirt-sophomore quarterback Shai Werts (4) reads the play call in the second quarter of the game against No. 2 Clemson. The offense finished with just 140 offensive yards on the afternoon. 

McClain Baxley

It was a short contest between the Eagles and Tigers in the two schools’ first meeting, coming in at just over three hours. The Eagles had signs of belief, and signs of weakness, in their 38-7 loss in Death Valley.

Here are the 5 biggest takeaways from Saturday’s game:

Eagles start and finish strong

Continuing the season-long trend of starting and ending games efficiently, GS allowed just 17 points in the first and fourth quarters. Against Clemson Saturday, on the Tigers’ opening drive, junior cornerback Kindle Vildor came away with an interception off of Clemson’s Kelly Bryant.

GS’ defense once again set the tone for the game – flying around, making stops and frustrating Clemson into making mental mistakes.

Clemson’s defense had a stranglehold on the Eagle offense, though, making it unable to pick up anything of substance until the fourth quarter. Again in the fourth quarter, the GS defense held mighty with the exception of two big plays for Clemson.

Setting the tone in the first quarter has proven to give the Eagles momentum during these first three games, and by capping the Clemson game off with a competitive fourth quarter, the Eagles were able to send the couple hundred true blue fans home with pride.

Byrd’s presence felt

Redshirt-sophomore linebacker Rashad Byrd was called for a targeting call in the third quarter of last week’s UMass game, forcing him to sit out the first half of the game against Clemson.

His spot was filled and complemented by Jay Bowdry, Todd Bradley, Tomarcio Reese and Randy Wade Jr.

Bradley went down on Clemson’s opening drive, and Reese never looked 100 percent after falling victim to a chop block penalty. Then, backup Chris Harris Jr. went down and Clemson became aware of GS’ lack of depth at the linebacker spot.

The Tigers continually attacked the hole-in-the-run game in the first half, leaving the Eagles panting for breath with no answers.

Upon Byrd’s return to action after halftime, the redshirt-sophomore finished with four tackles and an interception. He provided a voice on the field and hit hard when the Eagles were at their weakest point.

Offensive line showed inexperience

One of the biggest question marks heading into this week’s contest was how well the young offensive line would hold up against one of the most highly touted defensive lines in the country. Redshirt-sophomore Shai Werts felt the answer all afternoon.

The front four, who call themselves the “Power Rangers,” ended with 16 tackles and four sacks, making Werts’ day miserable. On one play in particular, Clemson’s defensive end Austin Bryant attacked Werts from the right side—completely unblocked.

The offensive line was completely manipulated all night, giving Werts no time to throw and creating no holes for the backs to run through.

The flashiness worked

With 14:38 left in the game, the Eagles had the ball on the Clemson 46 yard line. Redshirt-junior wide receiver caught a screen to the left from Werts and then launched it to a wide open Wesley Kennedy III on the six yard line.

GS scored on the next play with Werts running it to the left. The razzle dazzle of the first down double pass to Kennedy III sparked an offense that managed just 80 yards outside of the play.

If the Eagles can catch future teams off-guard, they just might be featured on ESPN again.  

GS is 3-0 against the spread

The Eagles are 2-1 on the season but have managed to beat the spread in all three games. GS covered the one-point spread against UMass last week with ease, but Saturday’s 31 points couldn’t have cut the 32-point spread closer.

Once again, the Eagles were able to narrowly escape the spread against a ranked power five team, complementing last season’s cover of the 34-point spread at Auburn.

McClain Baxley, The George-Anne Sports Editor, [email protected]