Seeking revenge after last year’s one-sided loss in Amherst, the Georgia Southern football team put together a one sided victory of their own, winning 34-13 over Massachusetts behind 488 total offensive yards.
Once again, redshirt-sophomore quarterback Shai Werts proved his offseason improvement. Against the Minutemen, Werts was able to win with his arm—completing six of his nine attempts for 154 yards and two touchdowns.
“(The receivers) did a great job getting open, the line did a great job protecting and it’s my job to get them the ball,” Werts said. “When you’re comfortable, you can make any throw.”
After UMass’ first series, the game wasn’t following the script of a blowout. Led by starting quarterback Andrew Ford, the Minutemen were able to march down, but settle for a field goal.
The Eagles set the tone early by establishing the run from senior running backs Wesley Fields and Monteo Garrett taking what the wanted and drive down the field. The importance of the game was seen on a fourth and one play on the UMass 41 yard line.
UMass stuffed the box to close up the hole, but Garrett took it four yards on the right side to pick up the first down.
Though GS wasn’t able to score on their second fourth down attempt of the drive, UMass was forced to look down a 91 yard field. The Minutemen were only able to come away with one good pass before having to give the ball back to the Eagles via punt.
Werts and the gang went back to work. Werts and Fields just went back and forth picking up steady yards, not having to attempt a fourth down like the drive before.
Faced with a third and goal from the five, Werts rolled out to his right to hit redshirt freshman tight end Cam Brown in the endzone for Brown’s first career catch. The score put the Eagles up by four with 13 minutes left in the first half.
“(Having different weapons) helps a lot so one guy doesn’t take all the way over,” Fields said of the multiback set. “We have most of our guys on offense that can come in and make the big time plays.
The GS defense once again came through with power and gave the ball back to the Eagles’ offense where sophomore slotback Wes Kennedy III was ready to get in on the statline.
An opening 39 yard pass from Werts to Kennedy set the Eagles up on the UMass 35. GS couldn’t create any more substantive offense, so they sent redshirt-junior kicker Tyler Bass out to kick and make a 41 yard field goal.
But the Minutemen answered 12 play, 75 scoring drive of their own to tie the game at 10.
With just over two minutes in the first half, the Eagles had the ball on their own 25 yard line. Georgia Southern, tied with Massachusetts at 10, had two minutes to win back momentum.
Werts put together a perfect eight play, 75 yard drive with two passes of 25 yards and put the exclamation mark on an 171 total yard first half with a three yard rushing touchdown.
GS started off the second half back to the option, but stalled out to send Tyler Bass out to kick a 50 yard field goal. Head Coach Chad Lunsford called a timeout.
“We only had 10 on the field,” Lunsford said. “I have no doubts in Tyler Bass and the field goal unit, we just need to make sure we’re locked into the game.”
The kicking team went back out to attempt the kick and made a career-high 50 yard field goal to give the eagles a 10 point lead.
UMass took the ball on the ensuing drive and kicked a field goal to make it a touchdown game again.
Werts trotted out back on the field to put the game away and he did just that. The Eagles put together a quick, five play, three minute drive to put the Minutemen away.
“People sleep on (Werts’) passing skills, but when he sets in the pocket and gets comfortable, he can make those passes,” Fields said. “It was every single time.”
The spread option was on full display all day with GS putting up 488 yards of total offense, 334 of those coming on the ground. Every skill player looked confident and comfortable, but were quick to give all credit to the guys up front.
“Coach Lunsford told us at the beginning of the week that it starts up front and those guys definitely busted their tails tonight,” Fields said.
The Eagles will go on the road to take on the No. 2 Clemson Tigers next Saturday at 3:30 p.m
McClain Baxley, The George-Anne Sports Editor, firstname.lastname@example.org