NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Shai Werts had three touchdown runs and threw a 65-yard scoring pass to help Georgia Southern beat Louisiana Tech 38-3 in the New Orleans Bowl on Wednesday.
Werts, who missed the Eagles’ last two regular-season games because of a shoulder injury, scored one of his touchdowns on a designed QB run that covered 37 yards. His two other rushing TDs came from a yard out.
Georgia Southern came up with four interceptions — including two near its own goal line in the first quarter. Safety Justin Birdsong intercepted two passes — the first against Louisiana Tech starter Aaron Allen and the second against reserve JD Head in the third quarter.
Georgia Southern (8-5), which came in averaging 262 yards rushing, finished with 322 against Louisiana Tech (5-5).
Malik Murry broke off a 43-yard run on the game’s opening drive to set up Werts’ first short TD run. Gerald Green added a 55-yard run in the fourth quarter to give him 108 yards and one TD rushing for the game. Werts finished with 71 yards rushing.
The Bulldogs were trying to win a bowl for the seventh straight season, but could not overcome three interceptions thrown by Allen inside the Georgia Southern 30 in the first half.
Allen’s first turnover came when Birdsong stepped in front of a pass at the 5 on a first-down play from the Eagles 17. Tech’s next possession ended when cornerback Derrick Canteen intercepted his sixth pass this season on the Georgia Southern 1 on a Tech first down from the 26.
The second turnover set up Werts’ deep pass to Khaleb Hood to make it 14-0.
Allen threw his third interception in the second quarter, when safety Anthony Wilson picked off a quick slant pass at the 25 on a second-and-10 from the Eagles’ 30.
Tech was on the verge of being shut out in the first half when Smoke Harris returned a punt 60 yards to set up the Bulldogs on the 0 with 31 seconds left. The defense responded by forcing two incomplete passes and sacking Allen to set up Jacob Barnes’ 45-yard field goal.
Louisiana Tech: Statistically, this was a difficult matchup for the Bulldogs, who came in allowing about 185 yards rushing per game. Once Werts and the Eagles’ ground game got going, it was going to be up to Tech’s offense to keep pace on the scoreboard, but turnovers prevented that.
Georgia Southern: The Eagles played to their strengths, riding their rushing attack for the bulk of the game and hitting Tech for a couple sizeable gains in the passing game — one for a score and one that set up Werts’ second 1-yard rushing TD. Meanwhile, Georgia Southern’s opportunistic defense increased its season interception total to 18, and its takeaway total to 26, which ranks first in the nation (albeit in 13 games, more than any other team has played in this pandemic-altered season).
Louisiana Tech: Visits Mississippi State on Sept. 4.
Georgia Southern: Hosts Gardner-Webb on Sept. 4.
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