In a clash under the lights, the Georgia Southern Eagles traveled to Lafayette to take on the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns in a nationally-televised game. Both teams were coming off of close losses, with the Eagles losing to the South Alabama Jaguars 38–31 and the Cajuns collapsing against the Troy Trojans 23–17. This game would be vital to both teams, as Clay Helton’s Eagles were one win away from bowl eligibility, while the Cajuns needed to win to keep their bowl chances alive.
The lights shone brightly on the turf as Thomas Leo kicked off to start the game. Sixth-year senior Kyle Vantrease couldn’t produce much of anything on the first drive, showing why ESPN had the Cajuns as 4-point favorites.
The Cajuns then drove down the field with up-tempo offense, which caused the Eagles to jump offsides on one play, and quarterback Ben Wooldridge capitalized two plays later with a beautiful throw to senior wideout John Stephens, Jr. The Eagles couldn’t respond on their next possession, punting it right back to the Cajuns.
Louisiana drove down the field in response and promptly threw an interception to Eagles’ defensive back Derrick Canteen. With this newfound momentum, Vantrease would lead a drive to open the second quarter, which concluded with running back OJ Arnold’s pass to Derwin Burgess, Jr. for a touchdown.
The Cajuns promptly flipped the field on a big run by Dre’lyn Washington on the first play of their third drive, capping it off with a diving catch by redshirt sophomore Jacob Bernard for a touchdown. Naturally, the Eagles responded by sputtering inside their own half of the field.
A nice punt return by Dontae Fleming gave Wooldridge good starting field position inside Georgia Southern’s 30-yard line. The next play, Wooldridge found wideout Michael Jefferson for Wooldridge’s third passing touchdown of the half.
On the next possession, the Eagles stalled out and would be forced to punt. The Cajuns went on a long drive to capitalize, ending it with a field goal by Kenneth Almendares. In this back-and-forth between the Cajuns high-flying offense and grinding Georgia Southern style, the Eagles found a bit of life before the half until the Cajuns forced a strip sack recovered by defensive lineman Mason Narcisse. The half ended on a Kenneth Almendares field goal to make the halftime score 27–7.
During the halftime break, I went down onto the field to pet a bird that a Georgia Southern handler had in a cage. It did more offensively while it was blinded by a hood than the Georgia Southern Eagles did with their eyes open.
Coming out of the half, the Cajuns’ third quarter began with a field goal to make it 30–7. Vantrease looked sloppy, and the game quickly turned into a war of attrition until Vantrease found Marcus Sanders, Jr. to bring it within a two-score game. The third quarter ended with the Cajuns on top, 30–14.
The Cajuns drove down the field to begin the fourth quarter, responding with a field goal attempt that was right down Broadway, but the Eagles wouldn’t go down without a fight, driving before stalling and settling for a field goal attempt that brought the score to 33–17.
Louisiana went straight for the kill, driving down the field quickly and burning little time. Almendares kicked another field goal to increase the lead to 19 for the vermilion and white.
But pesky Georgia Southern hung around, completing a string of passes and making steady progress towards the end zone. It was at this point that I left the stadium, watching the last bit of the game on my phone. The Cajuns would wind up victorious by a score of 36–17.
This was a very important game for the Cajuns to win. This showed what a complete Cajuns team could look like. Even though the offense wasn’t at its best, Kenneth Almendares made five field goals to keep the Eagles from threatening in a major way at any point during the game. The defense bent, but they didn’t break.
I can only hope that the same occurs against Texas State, because in my mind, I’m already writing off our game against Florida State as a blowout loss. For those who want to watch this Saturday, it will be on ESPN+ or the ACC Network at 11 a.m. CST.