Georgia Southern - Week 1 Recap and UAB Preview
This past Saturday, on a beautiful evening in Statesboro, the Georgia Southern Eagles hosted The Citadel Bulldogs. The Citadel was transitioning to new Head Coach, Maurice Drayton, and a new offensive system and it showed. The Eagles offense looked decent and the defense looks much more physical and faster than the 2022 version. The first points of the season were scored by RB OJ Arnold as he capped off an eleven play drive and got into the end zone about halfway through the first quarter. RB Jalen White, WR Derwin Burgess Jr., and Anthony Queeley all scored touchdowns on the day. K Michael Lantz was 2-2 on Field Goal Attempts connecting from 22 and 48 yards. White led the way on the ground with 125 rushing yards and a touchdown. Through the air, Burgess Jr. picked up where he left off last year and amassed six receptions for 76 yards and a touchdown.
The defense played well, only surrendering 212 yards of offense and forcing one turnover - a fumble forced by LB Davon Gilmore and recovered by DB Tyrell Davis. The team was led in tackles by LB Marques Watson-Trent with 7 tackles and LB Khadry Jackson who finished with 6 tackles including a sack. Newcomers S TJ Smith and LB Tarian Lee Jr. both played well and looked fast and physical. Several times, I saw Smith serving as the leader of the defensive backfield and correcting players or getting people into position. It was refreshing to see someone in the defensive backfield assume a leadership role, especially after losing several starters after last season.
The UAB Blazers are going to present a much bigger challenge for the Eagles defense. In Week 1, QB Jacob Zeno completed 38/41 passes for 291 yards and 3 touchdowns against North Carolina A&T. I expect the Georgia Southern defense to be put to the test early and often. Look for S TJ Smith to make a big impact. LB Marques Watson-Trent, LB Khadry Jackson, and LB Tarian Lee Jr. will be called upon to protect the middle of the field and cover running backs out of the backfield and tight ends to prevent short passes from turning into big gains. In addition to a strong passing game, the UAB had four ball carriers with over 30 rushing yards - RB Jermaine Brown Jr., RB Isaiah Jacobs, RB Lee Beebe, and QB Jacob Zeno. Brown Jr. had two touchdowns on the ground as well. The front seven will need to be on top of their game to plug holes and keep the running game at bay. Look for DL Latrell Bullard, DL, Davion Rhodes, DL Justin Rhodes, and DL Kierron Smith to rotate to stay fresh. UAB likes to use play action to pull linebackers and defensive backs in and then throw over the top so the defense must remain disciplined or it will be a very long day.
UAB gave up 147 rushing yards to North Carolina A&T in Week 1, so look for a heavy dose of RB Jalen White especially early on to get the defense committed to the run game to open up lanes for the passing game. Look for Offensive Coordinator Bryan Ellis to continue to create and exploit mismatches by putting TE Beau Johnson and TE Jjay McAfee on the perimeter to force linebackers onto running backs and wide receivers in the passing game. QB Davis Brin looked uncomfortable early on but settled down quickly and got into a rhythm. He had two poor throws during the game - one was a severe underthrow that ended up getting intercepted and the other should have been intercepted but he got away with it. Coach Ellis will likely look to get him into a rhythm early with some short passes that are essentially an extension of the running game and then take some calculated shots downfield.
In the kicking game, K Michael Lantz made both of his attempts - a 22 yard and a 48 yard field goal. In addition, all six of Lantz' kickoffs were touchbacks which gave no chance for returns. P Alex Smith, a 23 year old freshman from Melbourne, Australia did not look comfortable, which is not surprising given it was his debut. Hopefully he will continue to improve in terms of comfortability and results. UAB's K Matt Quin missed his only attempt from 28 yards and P Patrick Foley only punted once for thirty yards. Both teams present a small sample size, but it seems the advantage would be with the Eagles.
Attendance for this game should be high as it's Georgia Southern's first opportunity for revenge after losing to the Blazers in Birmingham last season. I expect a close game, but Georgia Southern pulls it off!
Final Score Prediction
UAB - 31
Georgia Southern - 34
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