Analyzing the Sun Belt clincher

Analyzing the Sun Belt clincher

Hayden Boudreaux

Offense:

Coming into the final game of the season on Saturday, the Eagle offense had been slowed by Texas State and defeated by Navy. Despite this, they used pure heart to etch out a victory against the Warhawks.

It was obvious that UL-Monroe had watched the game tape of Texas State. They used the same defensive front and were able to slow the rushing attack and allow 333 yards on the ground, which was the fourth lowest total on the season. Head coach Willie Fritz decided to take to the air and picked up 136 yards in the passing game.

The Eagles looked impressive in the first half, driving down the field but unable to put points on the board. Even though the scoreboard read 3-0 anyone watching could tell the Eagles were dominating the game. Sophomore quarterback Kevin Ellison looked poised in the pocket and was making valiant runs to keep drives alive.

Ellison finished his night with over 100 yards on the ground and all 136 yards through the air. He was able to run for one score and picked up countless first downs. On a long scoring drive Ellison took four carries and made two long passes to establish him as the leader of the team. Trailing 13-9 Ellison went down with what appeared to be an injured knee. Fritz elected to go with his experienced senior Ezayi Youyoute to saddle up and take back the lead.

On his first play in the game, Youyoute broke off an 18 yard run to electrify the stands. He averaged 16.2 yards per carry and was able to lead the team back with two scores to regain the lead. After playing only sparingly all season Youyoute showed his resiliency to make the most of this opportunity on senior night.

“It just means the world to me to finish like this,” Youyoute said.

Players from all over the field made huge plays on Saturday. Senior receiver Zach Walker led the team with three catches for 39 yards. Redshirt freshman LA Ramsby and Kentrellis Showersboth were able to pull down catches for 36 and 38 yards, respectively. Ellison’s efforts sent him over 1,000 rushing yards on the season adding him with Brieda who is the only other past the milestone.

While the offense was slowed, and it may now have been figured out, one thing was evident to everyone who packed into Paulson last night. The Eagles were running with pure heart and were ready to sacrifice their body if that was required. When Ellison went down, Fritz knew that Youyoute would be ready, despite playing sparingly all season. The senior silenced all doubts and Georgia Southern took home their first Sun Belt Conference Championship.

Defense:

The final drive was reminiscent of the battle with Florida last year. The Warhawks were only down by a score and two big plays brought them within twenty yards of the endzone 00:19 left on the clock.

Warhawk quarterback Pete Thomas tossed a pass over to his receiver near the goal line. The ball falls in his hands as he is crossing the plain, the game appears to be over. Out of the blue, junior safety Matt Dobson flew in and collided with the receiver, everyone held their breath. The ball popped out and the sideline judge waved his arms in front of him, signaling an incompletion. One pass into the dirt later, the Eagles won their first Sun Belt title.

The entire defense had battled adversity all season. Fans remarked how they could not defend against the pass and they were coming off of the debacle at Navy where they allowed one player to singlehandedly gash them for over 300 yards and five scores. The Eagles settled down, and showed up when it counted.

Each player contributed their part nearly equally as Dobson and sophomore Darius Jones each led the team with six tackles. Linebackers Antwione Williams and Edwin Jackson each had five tackles and were huge in adding pressure to Thomas and Deshawntee Gallon tallied a sack. The entire defensive backfield played with heart to keep the Warhawks pinned to 16 points.

While the secondary played very well, a huge chunk of the defensive success came from the pressure from the big men up front. Sophomore defensive linemen Jamal Johnson and Bernard Johnson each had a sack of their own and forced Thomas out of the pocket and rushed him into incompletions.

The defense had been up and down all season but they gave fans a show on the last game of the season. They were disciplined and made all of Eagle Nation proud to watch them hold off the Warhawk passing attack. Jackson had been the beating heart of the defense all year and he left everything on the field.

Jackson said “We were tired, but we fought.”