Georgia Southern took an early lead in the Sun Belt Conference with their 24-9 win over South Alabama Saturday night.
The Eagles started hot with 10 first quarter points. They only managed 14 more throughout the rest of the game, however. Key to their success was ball control. The Eagles controlled the ball with 35:26 time of possession to the Jaguars 24:34.
The defense was the definition of bend-but-don’t-break. All of South Alabama’s three scoring drives ended in field goals. Georgia Southern’s offense finished three of their four scoring drives in the end zone.
Here are the grades for Georgia Southern’s victory over South Alabama.
Running Game: A-
Georgia Southern will always focus on the ground attack. In any win, the Eagles will have several key rushers pick up some significant yardage on the stat sheet. That’s something they’ve done since Erk Russell strolled the sidelines.
The most effective rushers for the Eagles were the quarterbacks Favian Upshaw and Kevin Ellison. They combined for 196 yards with Upshaw gaining 108 and Ellison with 86 and a touchdown.
While the quarterbacks ran free all game, South Alabama contained the running backs. Matt Breida, who had 100 yards in seven of the 13 games last year, was held to 54 yards on 17 carries. L.A. Ramsby returned from his suspension and only gained 12 yards on 5 carries.
Wesley Fields had the best day with 46 yards on just 11 carries with one touchdown.
Overall the group combined for 306 rushing yards with two touchdowns.
Passing Game: A
Clearly the passing game is graded on a curve. For most division I programs 7-for-10 with 137 yards and no touchdowns isn’t anything special.
But for Georgia Southern it’s another step in the right direction. With how potent their option attack is, they only need a reliable passing game, not a great one. If the Eagles have the ability and confidence to pass the ball when they need to, the possibilities for their offense this year are limitless.
Upshaw is proving so far this season to be the better passer. He went 6-of-9 Saturday for 127 yards. Ellison completed his only pass for 10 yards.
Run Defense: A+
South Alabama is not a run first team, but you still can’t ignore it completely. The Eagles didn’t neglect the Jaguars running game and shut it down for only 73 yards on 27 carries.
Xavier Johnson was held to 21 yards and Tyreis Thomas only had 20. Quarterback Dallas Davis had 18 yards but that was on 10 carries. No one else had more than 10 yards and the Eagle defense didn’t surrender a rushing touchdown.
Pass Defense B+
The Eagles had a much tougher time stopping Davis through the air. Despite their struggles, they did not allow a touchdown and kept Davis from completing 50 percent of his passes. Davis went 21-of-43 with 279 yards with an interception.
Kevin Kutchera (3 catchers, 69 yards), Gerald Everett (3 catches, 64 yards) and Josh Magee (6 catches, 50 yards) all has solid days but they couldn’t finish drives with touchdowns.
Of course stats do not matter when you aren’t scoring touchdowns.
EAGLES WIN!!! GS defeats South Alabama 24-9 to go 1-0 in the Sun Belt and 2-0 overall pic.twitter.com/4xh7SdD8UQ
— GS Football (@GSAthletics_FB) September 11, 2016
Georgia Southern must be pleased with their 2-0 start. South Alabama was coming off an upset of Mississippi State the previous week. This win allows the Eagles to build momentum in for their first critical conference match-up against Arkansas State in three weeks.