I will make a confession. I kind of wanted to go down to the Camellia Bowl but my work schedule wouldn’t support that. I decided to enjoy a nice sunny Michigan December day instead. So that is why there’s radio. Even though I wasn’t particularly enamored by the ESPN Radio announcers, they weaved enough of a tapestry for me to see the game in my mind.
Anyway, today was one of those days where I saw the end with some degree of clarity. Eastern Michigan took a 21-20 lead on a drive capped off by a 5-yard touchdown pass from Mike Glass III to Arthur Jackson III. The only problem was that Eastern Michigan left Georgia Southern with 3 minutes and 33 seconds of clock. In college football, even for a rushing-based team, that is like an eternity. With the way Georgia Southern was running the ball earlier in the game, I just knew what was going to happen.
The winning drive started at the Georgia Southern 25. The first down was nothing exciting, but the second down was a 15-yard completion from Shai Werts to Ellis Richardson — one of four Georgia Southern completions all evening. Then, Wesley Fields slightly advanced it down field for four yards. The next play was a loss of four yards which included a fumble by Shai Werts, recovered by the quarterback himself. The third down was an incomplete pass. Thus, it meant that Georgia Southern required 10 yards to secure a first down and keep its Camellia Bowl champion hopes alive. This also meant that I would see something that I’ve seen all too often with Eastern Michigan football. On the all-important play, Shai Werts took the snap and then bolted to the outside for 29 yards to the EMU 30 for the first down. A couple short gains put the ball well within range for kicker Tyler Bass. With three seconds left in the game, Bass drill the 40-yard field goal as the clock expired. With emotions running high on both sidelines as soon as the kick sailed through, Eastern Michigan would lose to Georgia Southern, 23-21 — the Eagles’ 11th (of 13 total losses) one possession loss in two seasons.
Eastern Michigan quarterback Mike Glass III would finish the game 17-for-25 for 204 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for 22 yards but it didn’t sound like they used him much in that capacity. Willie Parker was the leading Eastern Michigan rusher with just 44 yards. The passing game saw a bit more success, and Arthur Jackson led all receivers with 86 yards and 2 touchdown catches. His first touchdown was a 75-yard catch-and-run on the first play of the third quarter and his fourth quarter catch to take the brief lead was a spectacular tiptoe grab at the back of the end zone.
On the Georgia Southern side of the ball, Shai Werts would end up 4-for-7 for 33 yards. Given Georgia Southern’s typical apathy to the passing game, that sounds about right. Wesley Kennedy III would earn 107 of the 331 yards that Georgia Southern would gain on the ground. Ellis Richardson would lead Georgia Southern receivers by earning 15 yards in air.
Neither team turned the ball over and both teams were even in the penalty department. Each team yielded one sack. And the normally disruptive Eastern Michigan defense would only record 2 tackles for loss. Georgia Southern’s offensive line did a pretty decent job of bottling All-MAC selection Maxx Crosby.
So congratulations to the Georgia Southern Eagles. You are 2-0 in FBS bowl games and won 10 games just one season after losing 10. If there is a bright side, Eastern Michigan returns several key juniors next year. So we’ll see where Chris Creighton takes the program from here.