Georgia Southern lost their second game of the season Wednesday night to Arkansas State 27-26 after the Red Wolves drove down the field and scored with only nine seconds remaining.
Georgia Southern (3-2, 2-1) led for the entire game until Justin Hansen completed the game winning touchdown pass to Omar Bayless. But the Eagles were very fortunate to be leading at that stage of the ball game.
Arkansas State (1-4, 1-0) out-gained Georgia Southern 525 yards to 365 yards and had 27 first downs compared to the Eagles. But three fumble recoveries and two interceptions for Georgia Southern’s defense allowed them to keep the lead.
Here are the grades for Georgia Southern’s performance last night.
Passing game: B
Here’s a stat you don’t see very often; Georgia Southern’s passing game actually accumulated more yards than the running game. Because of Favian Upshaw’s hip injury, Kevin Ellison played a majority of the game. He went 14-of-22 with 203 yards and a 63-yard touchdown pass to Myles Campbell.
Ellison actually looked like an efficient passer most of the night, he didn’t make any arid throws, never turned the ball over and was fairly accurate. If you’re a Georgia Southern fan wondering how you can rely on the passing game when it’s needed, don’t worry any more. After five games, Ellison (and Upshaw) have proven themselves to be formidable passers this season.
Running game: C-
Georgia Southern held under 200 rushing yards in a game. What kind of backwards world is this? Well it was a reality against Arkansas State’s defense. Four Eagles combined for only 163 rushing yards.
L.A. Ramsby led the team with 68 yards on six carries, but one of those carries was a 61-yard touchdown run. The other five carries he only amassed seven yards.
Matt Brieda had 42 yards on 10 carries continuing his lack of production in the altered offensive scheme. Wesley Fields had 27 yards on 12 carries and Ellison had only 25 yards on 17 carries.
That’s not indicative of a good day for Georgia Southern’s offense at all.
Pass defense: C+
At times Hansen looked unstoppable against Georgia Southern’s defense, other times he was well contained. But in the end, Hansen defeated the Eagles with his arm. He completed 16-of-28 passes for 182 yards with a pair of touchdowns.
But Georgia Southern did intercept two passes, both ended long drives. But ultimately however, it wasn’t the passing game that did the Eagles in…
Run defense: F
This was the one area the Eagles were most solid at, offense and defense. Teams just don’t impose their wills on the ground against Georgia Southern. Arkansas State did though.
The Red Wolves trotted, scrambled and sprinted to 343 yards on 49 carries. Warren Wand had 140 yards on 19 carries. Johnston White added 126 yards on 17 carries. Hansen pitched in for 61 yards on nine carries, including a 16 yard scramble on 4th-and-15 to continue the drive that Arkansas State eventually scored the go-ahead touchdown on.
Besides a small hand-few of carries, Wand and White had tons of space to run around after they received the hand-off, the Eagles defensive line was pushed around all night long.
Tyson Summers and his Eagles want to put this loss behind them, because this was not a game to be proud of. Ukeme Eligewe called the Georgia Southern defense the backbone of the team back in August. Well that back was broken Wednesday night.
The five turnovers are great and all, but they were very desperately needed. Three ended long drives for Arkansas State that they would have likely scored on. This game could have been a lot uglier for the Eagles.
Offensively they have to take advantage of turnovers. The defense stepped up in critical moments to flip the momentum and the offense let the team down. The production from the passing game is welcome and when it’s working that well it should probably be used more. Especially when the running game is performing so poorly.
And Georgia Southern fans love their option-run game, if you can’t get that working as a coach, they’ll have very little patients for you.
The Eagles travel to Georgia Tech next Wednesday night for only the second time in school history. The Yellow Jackets are the most talented team the Eagles will have played thus far and that team includes many players from their 2014 Orange Bowl winning squad.
It goes without saying that Georgia Tech will be Georgia Southern’s biggest challenge in the first half of this season.