While most of the bowls on Saturday were blowouts, the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl delivered an instant classic. Georgia Southern defeated Eastern Michigan 23-21 by way of a 40-yard field goal from Tyler Bass on the last play of the game. The win gives Georgia Southern 10 wins on the season after going just 2-10 in 2017. It was the first full season under Chad Lunsford who served as interim for the final six games of last season. The loss for Eastern Michigan cost them a chance at getting eight victories. That would have been the most for the program since 1987 when they won ten.
The first quarter really saw the offenses move a bit slowly. Both teams went three and out on their opening possessions for a combined 15 yards. On the second possession Georgia Southern used a 15-play drive that chewed up 9:01 off the clock and went a total of 95 yards. The drive was capped off with a 26 yard touchdown run by quarterback Shai Werts. That would not be the most important run for Werts in the contest. Werts totaled 79 yards on the ground. Georgia Southern totaled 331.
The two teams would exchange punts once again before Eastern Michigan tied the game with a six-play 50-yard possession that began early in the second quarter. The big play on the drive was on 2nd and 6 from the Georgia Southern 29 when quarterback Mike Glass III hit receiver Isaac Holder on a 20 yard slant. Three plays later Glass would hit Tyler Lyle on a one yard pass to tie the game up at 7-7 with 7:53 remaining in the second quarter.
The remaining minutes of the first half would belong to Georgia Southern with 10 unanswered points that included a five yard touchdown run by Werts and the first of three field goals by Bass to go up 17-7 at the break. At that point in the game Georgia Southern outgained Eastern Michigan in yards 230-93, and looked to have total control of the game.
With all the momentum not in their favor, Eastern Michigan looked to make a big play to open the second half. That they did indeed. On the opening play of the half, Glass connected with receiver Arthur Jackson III on a 75-yard touchdown pass to make it a game to set up the classic finish. The rest of the third quarter saw five combined punts, and a turnover on downs to start the fourth quarter for Eastern Michigan.
The punting units did not see the field again. Georgia Southern took the turnover on downs and marched down the field before stalling at the Eastern Michigan 18, and Bass kicked his second field goal of the game. This one being of the 35 yard variety. Eastern Michigan went on the longest drive of the contest with a 16 play drive that took 6:16 off the clock. To close out the drive Glass his Jackson once again and put Eastern Michigan up 21-20 after the extra point. The scoring play came on a fourth and four from the Southern six with 3:33 remaining, and even needed an official review to confirm the touchdown. It looked like Eastern Michigan would get the victory, but Werts had one more run in him.
On fourth and ten at their own 41, Werts scrambled on a broken play up the middle for a gain of 29 yards to put Georgia Southern on the Eastern Michigan 30. They would run two plays to set up the field goal, and then Bass knocked in the 40 yard game winning field goal.
Quarterback Shai Werts was named MVP of the game with 112 total yards. This was the fifth Raycom Media Camellia Bowl, and the third victory for the Sun Belt in the history of the game.