STATESBORO (Georgia Southern Athletics) –Shai Werts rushed for 155 yards and a touchdown, and Georgia Southern scored 21 straight points in the second half to eke out a 27-26 victory over Campbell in the 2020 football season opener Saturday afternoon in Paulson Stadium.
Werts scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 41-yard scamper down the sideline with 6:42 to play, capping a 6-play, 95-yard drive in which the redshirt senior quarterback rushed for 74 yards.
Hajj-Malik Williams hit Jalen Kelsey with a 20-yard touchdown pass with 15 seconds left to cut the margin to 27-26, and Campbell elected to go for two despite being flagged for a delay of game penalty, which moved the spot of the conversion try to the 7-yard line. Williams’ pass attempt to Julian Hill was just out of his reach.
The Big South Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, Williams threw for 237 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 73 yards and a score. After being sacked by Raymond Johnson III on third down, Williams converted a 4th-and-7 with an 11-yard run on the Fighting Camels’ final drive and found a wide-open Cedric Frazier for a 22-yard gain to set up their last touchdown.
The game was Georgia Southern’s first athletic event since March 11, when the baseball team topped Georgia 6-1 to complete a three-game season sweep over the Bulldogs and the men’s basketball team defeated Georgia State 81-62 in the Sun Belt tournament quarterfinals.
Key Moments: With GS trailing 20-6, Werts converted a 3rd-and-8 from the Eagle 27-yard line with a 21-yard run and followed it with a 32-yard pick-up to put the Eagles in the Red Zone. On 4th-and-goal, Werts faked the handoff, rolled out and hit D.J. Butler with a 1-yard pass, trimming the lead to 20-13.
Campbell muffed the snap on a punt attempt early in the fourth quarter, giving GS the ball on the 6-yard line, and the Eagles took advantage, tying the score 20-20 on a 6-yard TD run by King.
With the Eagles trailing 13-6 at halftime, Georgia Southern fumbled on the opening kickoff return of the second half, and Campbell used the good field position to extend the margin to 20-6 on an 8-yard touchdown run by Williams.
Fun Stat: The Eagles led the game for a grand total of 6:42.
Notes: The game was delayed about 40 minutes because of inclement weather in the area. Georgia Southern had 33 players inactive for various reasons. It was one of four games on the season schedule for Campbell, which is also slated to meet Sun Belt members Coastal Carolina and Appalachian State.