Auburn overpowers Eagles in opener

Thomas Jilk

The point of the option offense is for the quarterback to have just that – an option: to run or to pitch. For redshirt freshman starting quarterback Shai Werts, neither choice was appealing at Auburn on Saturday.

The Tigers’ front seven shut down the Eagles’ running game, blanketing running backs Wesley Fields and L.A. Ramsby, along with Werts, en route to a 41-7 victory at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

First half

The Georgia Southern offense could get almost nothing going in the first half, with 23 rushes for only 33 yards, including a 25-yard scamper by Werts that accounted for the over two-thirds of the of the total GS first-half yardage.

“We’ve got to be able to do what we came out to do, which is run the ball,” head coach Tyson Summers said.

The Eagle defense stood its ground with the exception of a few long plays, even after their defensive leader, junior safety Josh Moon, left the game with an apparent ankle injury late in the first quarter.

“Our defense played well early,” Summers said. “I thought they kept us in the game.”

Senior linebacker Chris DeLaRosa had two tackles for a loss, a fumble recovery, and a forced fumble on a blind-side strip-sack that was recovered by junior linebacker Tomarcio Reese and returned 22 yards for the lone Eagle touchdown.

Auburn scored first on a 50-yard field goal that senior kicker Daniel Carlson made look easy. On their third drive, the Tigers rode junior back Kerryon Johnson to the end zone as he sprinted 60 yards down the right sideline. Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham ran in a 14-yard touchdown, and Kam Martin, in the game after Johnson was hurt, broke a 36-yarder off for another touchdown.

Second half

Without its top two running backs, Auburn’s offense didn’t miss a beat using its third-string back, Martin. An exhausted Georgia Southern defense was worn down by the tempo of Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn’s quick-hitting offense.

To open the third quarter, Martin led the attack down to the 19-yard line, where Stidham hit junior wideout Ryan Davis on a crossing pattern that he caught in stride, then cut across the field and dove into the end zone through three Eagle defenders. With the score at 31-7, the rout was officially on.

On the Eagles’ second drive of the second half, Werts was sacked twice, losing massive yardage and asserting Auburn’s dominance with the pass rush. Auburn senior linebacker Tre Williams led the charge with two sacks and double-digit tackles.

The Eagles gradually began to pick up yardage instead of losing it, with Werts and Ramsby each getting loose in the fourth quarter for big runs. However, it was too late for the Eagles to get back into the game.

GS safety Jay Bowdry led the defense with 12 tackles and an interception, coupled with strong efforts from DeLaRosa and Reese. Ramsby led the running backs with 11 carries for 33 yards.

Both teams pulled a significant amount of starters in the second portion of the fourth quarter.

Stay tuned for photos, quotes and updates on Josh Moon’s injury and the Eagles.