STATESBORO, GA (WTOC) - This one was the “Respect Game.”
After blowing out #25 Appalachian State Thursday night, it would be tough for one to not respect Georgia Southern any longer.
“We went out there and earned our respect tonight,” says junior cornerback Kindle Vildor. “We went out there and did our thing.”
“I think this game maybe tells people that we’re for real,” says head coach Chad Lunsford.
The Eagles scored 27 unanswered points to build a 34-7 lead, keeping a raucous crowd of just under 20,000 rowdy all night.
“It was just amazing tonight,” says senior running back Wesley Fields. “When we get in Paulson Stadium, it feels like just we just turn it up another notch. The fans bringing that energy that they bring just gives us that edge that we need.”
Southern ran for 277 yards, wearing down an Appalachian State defense that entered the game ranked 1st in the Sun Belt in rushing defense. Head coach Chad Lunsford says he knew if the Eagles stuck with their option attack, eventually they would break through.
“We said it was going to be like running into a brick wall over and over,” Lunsford says. “It was just great to see it unfold the way we said it would.”
The defense forced five Appalachian turnovers, including four interceptions. Mountaineer starting QB Zac Thomas left the game after an injury on the first offensive series of the game. The Eagles then harassed ASU backup QBs Peyton Derrick and Jacob Huesman the rest of the ballgame.
QB Shai Werts led the offense once again, rushing for 129 yards and a touchdown. He added 57 yards on his only completion of the night, a touchdown pass to Darion Anderson for the Eagles' first score of the game.
The redshirt sophomore QB says this game made a statement.
“You come in here ranked Top 25, doing all that talking. You have to come in here and you have to play,” Werts said. “Those rankings can’t save you in Paulson.”
It’s the Eagles' first win over a Top 25 team in program history, and first win over the Mountaineers since 2014. For a senior class that has dealt with three head coaches and two losing seasons, this win was special.
“Those two years I was here, we were on a downhill. Now we’re trying to turn it back around, trying to get the winning back,” Fields says, fighting back tears. “To come out here tonight and do this, it’s so amazing. It shows you how good God is. God has just blessed us.”
The Eagles improve to 7-1 with the win and 4-0 in Sun Belt Conference play. Georgia Southern is back in action November 3 when they travel to Louisiana-Monroe.