Georgia Southern will be playing in only its third bowl game when it takes on Liberty on Saturday afternoon in the Cure Bowl in Orlando, Fla. However, the Eagles are no strangers to the postseason with 19 appearances in FCS playoffs.
Those opportunities produced six national titles before the program moved up to the FBS level by joining he Sun Belt Conference in 2014, winning the league title with an 8-0 league record in its inaugural season.
Coach Chad Lunsford looks at his team’s second consecutive bowl trip as an opportunity to add to that history.
“As always at Georgia Southern, it’s about leaving a legacy because Georgia Southern has such a rich history of winning and a tradition of winning,” he said. “I know these guys want to go out the right way.”
Liberty earned a bowl trip in its first season of postseason eligibility this year after completing its two-year transition from the FCS level to FBS competition. Flames coach Hugh Freeze said the bowl “is really exciting for our kids. Their energy has been great at practice.”
Both teams sport 7-5 records, but they are far from identical.
Georgia Southern lost is opener at now-No. 1 LSU in a big way — 55-3 — but lost by only three points two weeks later at now-No. 18 Minnesota and later handed now-No. 20 Appalachian State its only setback, 24-21 at the Mountaineers’ home.
The Flames’ wins include two over FCS teams (Hampton and Maine) and a pair over woeful independent New Mexico State, the latter being a 49-28 decision in the regular-season finale to earn postseason eligibility.
Senior quarterback Stephen Calvert leads a Liberty offense that is averaging 442.5 yards and 33.7 points per game. He is the Flames’ all-time passing leader with 11,775 yards, and he has 18 300-yard games and four 400-yard games. He averaged 282.8 passing yards in the 2019 regular season, 12th best in the country.
Georgia Southern gets it done on the ground with its triple-option scheme ranking No. 8 in the country with 261.5 rushing yards per game.
Junior quarterback Shai Werts throws for only 70.4 yards per game, averaging 10.8 throws. However, he has rushed for 676 yards, third on the team behind running backs J.D. King, an Oklahoma State transfer who leads with 776, and Wesley Kennedy III. Kennedy rushed for 760 yards and a team-high 10 touchdowns in just eight games.
“Offensively, they present a challenge to you that you don’t face much,” Freeze said. “Every single play, they’re making you fit the triple option in your mind any way. Their quarterback Werts is one of the best athletes we’ve seen all year.”
–Field Level Media