New Hampshire Wildcats dominate Georgia Southern in Birmingham, 22-12

Mcclain Baxley

After last week’s horrid performance by the Georgia Southern offense, Eagles fans were quick to blame it on the fact that it was on the road in the SEC and were hopeful for this week’s matchup against New Hampshire. Maybe they were too hopeful.

At halftime of Saturday’s game against the Wildcats, the GS offense, led by a whole new coaching staff and new key players, had only mustered up 134 yards and zero points. They also inexcusably lost 22-12. In a word, the Eagles outing was pathetic.

Penalties were abundant. The defense that performed well against Auburn last week couldn’t keep up with the Wildcats. In a game that many went ahead and marked down as a win, the Eagles suffered their first loss to an FCS team since the move up to FBS.

First Half

The Eagles started off with the ball and everything looked great as they marched down steadily. The 30-yard drive ended on the first option pitch of the game that hit the turf and was recovered by a swarm of Wildcats.

New Hampshire then took the ball down on a very organized and efficient seven-play drive to get the first score of the afternoon. They added on to their lead by making the 2-point conversion.

After a Georgia Southern three and out, New Hampshire junior quarterback Trevor Knight continued to expose the Eagles’ secondary with a couple of big pass plays. The Wildcats’ second drive was capped off by running back Evan Gray 2-yard touchdown run.

The Eagles took the field and the crowd and all watching could sense of feeling of desperation now. Redshirt freshman quarterback Werts put together another solid drive but a chop block killed the momentum that was building. Redshirt sophomore kicker Tyler Bass came on the field but would miss his second field goal on the year.

The Wildcats took the ball right down and made it a 22-0 game at the end of the first half.

Second half

Georgia Southern’s defense came out with a swagger for the first time in the game and were able to get two big tackles for a loss. On a 3rd and 17, Knight scrambled for a hard earned 43 yards. The drive fizzled out though, and the Wildcats were forced to punt for the first time.

Back and forth play ensued for the rest of the quarter but a GS drive ended with Bass earning the Eagles their first offensive points of the year. The succeeding kickoff had New Hampshire at their own 15-yard line. Again the defense stepped up and forced the Wildcats to take a safety to prevent a GS short field. The quarter ended with an unusual score of 22-5.

The fourth quarter began with yet another great showing from Werts running and everything clicking. The Eagles drove down and had a 1st and goal on the eight yard line. Then a high snap went over Werts head and junior running back Wesley Fields picked it up and ran and made up for the bad snap, helped by what looked like a good block from redshirt sophomore wide receiver Obe Fortune. The officials interpreted the block as a targeting penalty and Fortune was escorted to the locker room.

On a desperate 4th down, Werts threw a terrible pass straight to a New Hampshire defender. The Wildcats three and out gave the ball back to the Eagles at their own 40. It looked like it was going to be another meaningless drive for GS until Werts kept it for a 42-yard run. Two plays later, senior running back L.A. Ramsby was in for the first offensive touchdown since December.

New Hampshire got the ball back and after a few run plays, the upset was over.

Summers was “disappointed they couldn’t get out to a fast start.” He talked about how last season “we started off the season 3-0 and we’ve got to be able to turn this season around.”

Summers gave credit to Arkansas State being able to start 0-4 last season and came back from it and “is going to use them as an example moving forward.”

The Eagles will have a bye next week and then travel to Bloomington, Indiana on September 23 to take on the Hoosiers.