STATESBORO, Ga. — The Sun Belt Conference game between Georgia Southern and UL Monroe on Saturday, Nov. 16, at Paulson Stadium looked a lot like the 2018 meeting between the two when the Warhawks won by a big margin.
This time around, however, the Eagles were the ones dishing out the punishment, early and often.
GS won 51-29, getting its ULM revenge while scoring the most points by an Eagle team since Nov. 18, 2017. Head coach Chad Lunsford said his team was ready to play after a good week of practice, and the product was an impressive Southern performance in all three phases of the game.
“I can’t say enough about our guys, they are a special group,” Lunsford said. “We scored in all three phases of the game. So that tells you about the team effort right there. I’m proud of our offense playing for our defense, our defense playing for our offense and our special teams setting up both of them.”
With the win, Georgia Southern (6-4, 4-2 SBC) becomes eligible for a postseason bowl. The program has never appeared in consecutive bowls since moving up to the FBS level in 2014 but won the 2018 Camellia Bowl to finish off last season in style.
Shai Werts was brilliant at the quarterback position for the Eagles, who rushed for 245 yards while holding ULM (4-6, 3-3) to 85 yards on 31 attempts (2.7 yard average). Werts finished with two rushing touchdowns and 53 ground yards and threw for another score and 80 yards on 5 of 10 passing.
“We just did us and stayed together to grind out this win,” said Werts, who has attempted a school-record 192 consecutive passes without throwing an interception. “That’s all that matters at the end of the day, winning.
“It feels good to (potentially) get a postseason game. Hopefully, we keep winning and get to where we really want to be (in the SBC championship game).”
After being sacked a record nine times last week in a loss at Troy, Werts wasn’t sacked by ULM — a testament to his awareness against the Warhawks from start to finish, said Lunsford.
“I thought Shai did a good job tonight,” Lunsford said. “I thought he managed the game really well and I thought he threw the ball really well. He was just making good checks when he needed to and he made a lot of good decisions with the ball, I thought.
“Tonight, I saw a different look in his eyes and he’s continuing to get better.”
Rashad Byrd’s interception of ULM quarterback Caleb Evans came on the second play of offense for the visitors. After Byrd returned his third career interception to the Warhawk 21, GS scored on the third play of its second drive on an 11-yard option run from Werts.
The Eagles did not allow a ULM conversion on third down until less than a minute remained in the game. UL Monroe finished 2 of 13 (15%) on third downs.
Junior running back J.D. King led the team with 102 rushing yards and a score on 16 carries, while Wesley Kennedy III finished with 76 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. Kennedy caught two passes from Werts for 21 yards and finished with a team-high 110 all-purpose yards.