It’s typically rare for Sun Belt or MAC teams to play on Saturdays as fall turns to winter across the country but the Camellia Bowl delivered a nice weekend treat by pitting a pair of Eagles from each conference together in an excellent postseason matchup on Saturday night. To the surprise of nobody, considering the game involved Eastern Michigan, things were close throughout before Georgia Southern emerged victorious 23-21 to cap off the best season in program history since moving up to the FBS level.
Despite rainy conditions in Montgomery, Alabama throughout most of the game, the option offense was on point for the Eagles from Statesboro. Quarterback Shai Werts was stellar as the trigger-man and rushed for 79 yards and a pair of touchdowns while making several excellent decisions to pitch on the option. That paved the way for his backs Wesley Kennedy III (107 yards), Wesley Fields (91 yards) and Garrett Monteo (37 yards).
Perhaps Georgia Southern’s most impressive feat in the game came on their second drive when they zapped nine minutes and a second off the clock while covering 95 yards on 15 plays. That effort alone played a big role in helping win the time of possession battle in the game and was helped by going 2-of-2 in the red zone as well. Even more eye-opening for the Eagles was the fact that they closed out the 2018 season with just five turnovers, all fumbles, for a mark that is now the fewest in FBS history.
They actually fumbled three times in the Camellia Bowl but didn’t lose a single one to best the previous record mark of eight turnovers according to the ESPN broadcast.
The Eagles from Ypsilanti were in familiar territory playing a close game for approximately the 716th time under head coach Chris Creighton. Eastern Michigan took their only lead of the game with just over three minutes remaining after finishing off an impressive 16 play, 75 yard drive but it wasn’t enough to prevent a game-winning 40 yard field goal at the buzzer from Georgia Southern’s Tyler Bass, who nailed a 50-yarder as time expired in the first half too.
The effort spoiled a heck of a game from EMU Mike Glass, who threw for 204 yards and three scores — the last of which came on fourth down to briefly put the team ahead. Third downs were a problem for the Eagles offense all night as they couldn’t make the most of their limited chances.
While it was the same old story for EMU in just their fourth ever bowl game as a program, things were well, also the same for their opponent as those Eagles moved to a perfect 2-0 in the postseason at the FBS level. The victory in Montgomery also capped off one of the biggest turnarounds in the sport this season after the program went 2-10 a season ago and this year’s 10-3 mark is a new record since moving up from the FCS ranks.
Head coach Chad Lunsford’s name didn’t come up all that often when it came to end of the year honors in 2018 but he probably doesn’t mind all that after seeing his team gut out a comeback victory in the final seconds to make some more history in the process.