Eagles wreck rival App State 34-14

Hayden Boudreaux

Bug: Football (3-2, Sun Belt 2-0)

By Hayden Boudreaux

The George-Anne staff

In front of the second largest crowd in the history of Paulson Stadium, the Georgia Southern football team turned away hated rival Appalachian State 34-14 to stay tied for the number one spot in the Sun Belt.

First Quarter

Coming into this game, sophomore Eagle running back Matt Brieda had broken free on 50-plus yard runs in the first quarter of all three games this season. The tradition was continued on the first possession of this game when on the fifth play of the drive, Brieda struck with a 56-yard touchdown through the middle of the field.

Mountaineer quarterback Taylor Lamb led his offense out on to the field but was turned away by the ferocious Eagle defense. After completing two passes for negative yardage, App State punted the ball back to the home offense. The drive started off with a 14 yard run from Ellison, and ended nine plays later with a 19 yard field goal by junior Alex Hanks. During the drive, Ellison went down hard on the shoulder that has given him problems since the beginning of the year.

After another impressive series by the Eagle defense, App State was forced to a three and out. Sophomore quarterback Favian Upshaw took the field to replace Ellison. After an impressive 14 yard dash, the Eagles punted the ball away.

When App State’s offense took the field, sophomore defensive lineman Jay Ellison managed to sack Lamb for a five yard loss, followed by a five yard false start penalty to end the quarter.

Second Quarter

Faced with a third and seventeen, the Mountaineers snapped the ball to punt it back to the Eagles, but junior linebacker Deshawntee Gallon burst through the punt wall and blocked the kick to get the ball on the 28 yard line. After a run from Ellison and a flick to junior receiver B.J Johnson, the Eagles were pushed through the goal line by redshirt freshman running back L.A. Ramsby for his third rushing score of the season.

With a 17-0 lead the game looked to be a blowout, but fans watched with bated breath as the Mountaineers marched down the field with a vengeance on a 13 play 75 yard drive to score their first touchdown of the night. Both teams traded possessions after the score until a 25 yard Ellison scamper set up a 17 yard touchdown to Johnson to increase their lead to 24-7.

The Mountaineers were done for the half as the mid-range passing attack torched the Eagle defense down the field, and ended the drive with a one yard dive into the endzone to make the game 24-14 at .

Third Quarter

App State started the half with the ball, and wanted to make a statement quickly. They worked the ball down to the eight yard line, but the Eagle defense handled a fourth down conversion attempt to take possession and steal the momentum back.

The Eagles struggled moving the ball on their next drive, and after a blocked punt the defense allowed themselves to get pushed back inside their own ten yard line. Senior cornerback Nick Wright saved the defense with an interception to dodge another bullet.

With the ball on their own one yard line the Eagles ended the third quarter on a long and methodical drive down the field to the App State 17 yard line. The quarter ended after a third down run, and marked the only quarter all season the Eagles have been held without a score.

Fourth Quarter

The quarter opened with a 35 yard field goal from Hanks to put the Eagles up 27-14. It was the Eagle’s game to lose, and App had been knocking on the door the entire third quarter. On their first drive of the third quarter, the Eagles held them to a crucial third and 13 when redshirt freshman defensive end Ryan George sacked Lamb for a five yard loss to force the three and out.

Brieda ignited the Eagles with a 41 yard run, and allowed Ellison to push into the endzone for a one yard touchdown. Senior safety Deion Stanley came up with an interception on the next Mountaineer drive, but the thrill was cut short after Ellison threw a pick of his own three plays later.

Neither team could put up a score in the time remaining. The game ended with the Eagles knocking on the door at the App State 13 yard line, but Head Coach Willie Fritz elected to show mercy and leave the game in favor of Georgia Southern 34-14.

The Good

After the win, the Eagles improve to 2-0 in the Sun Belt and tie themselves with Louisiana Monroe, who they play in the final game of the season. Brieda is ranked 10th in the NCAA in rushing yards, despite having at least 27 carries less than everyone else in the top 10. The Eagles as a team are leading the entire country in rushing offense and the rest of the Sun Belt has a mostly weak rushing defense. Additionally, the defense was solid against the run game, and the pass defense forced Lamb to make bad decisions.

The Bad

App State exposed what most already knew about the Eagle passing defense. The mid-range passes continued to push our backs against the wall. Teams will use that, and drill their passing game to keep up with the Eagle offense early and rely on mistakes late.

The offense had another stellar performance, but everyone in the stadium noticed the hits that Ellison was taking. He is tough and runs with heart, but it brings up questions of how long his running game can hold up. Fortunately, the Eagles do have a very capable backup in Upshaw.

Up Next

The Eagles will take their fourth road trip of the season to take on New Mexico State (2-3, Sun Belt 1-0). After a conference win against Georgia State, the Aggies went on a three game losing streak, most recently a 63-7 loss at the hands of LSU. Kickoff is scheduled in La Cruces, NM at 9 p.m.