Back Kennedy’s ‘Reverse’ Leads Eagles

Kennedy’s ‘Reverse’ Leads Eagles

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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Georgia Southern is the Sun Belt's hottest team, with expectations, like Wesley Kennedy, that are off and running.

In sports, highlights aren't just watched, they are told. A play, when the circumstances are right, can become a phrase. At a place where College Football Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson once made "The Run" a singular encapsulation, Wesley Kennedy has introduced a new subtitle in Statesboro: "The Reverse". Correspondingly, Georgia Southern is the Sun Belt's hottest team, with expectations, like Kennedy, that are off and running.   

A famous moment deserves a fitting stage and Kennedy's now-iconic game-winner against Arkansas State had both. With mere seconds remaining in a tie game in Georgia Southern's league opener with the pre-season favorite Red Wolves, offensive coordinator Bob Debesse needed a big play on a 3rd-and-7 near midfield. He, with Kennedy's gamebreaking ability in mind, made one of the calls of the college football season. Already, the rest is history.

As an aggressive Arkansas State defense pursued Shai Werts and Monteo Garrett on an apparent option, Kennedy, from the slot, cut through and took a pitch in the opposite direction; it was the perfect play for the perfect playmaker as Kennedy, at Benedictine Military School in Savannah, compiled over 7,500 all-purpose yards and scored 89 total touchdowns. His first trip to the endzone for Georgia Southern, starting from the wide side of the field, sprinting up the sidelines and ending with an emphatic collision near the goaline, will be talked about for years.      

"It was crazy, it was a very confident call," Kennedy smiled, "and I was just happy for it to be my number."

Before the snap, even, Kennedy was evaluating and assessing. There was a veteran read and recognition that proved critical prior to the versatile sophomore ever starting his run. From there, Kennedy, who is now averaging 13.1 yards per rush, 28 yards per reception and 15.7 yards per punt return, simply did what he does best. Georgia Southern's final play was a mix of seeing and believing.    

"Once I lined up, I just scanned the field to see what was going on. I saw it was man coverage and nobody was on the back side, so as soon as I got the ball in my hands I just knew that I had to finish," Kennedy explained.

Saturday night was a back-and-forth affair, with Georgia Southern and Arkansas State exchanging leads and momentum ahead of a dramatic final sequence. There were countless key plays ahead of Kennedy's famous dash, a game full of great performances that primed the grand finale. The Eagles, as a team, rushed for 348 yards at 7.1 yards per carry and Werts connected with Wesley Fields on a 61-yard touchdown pass. All of what was stood as a setup for, ultimately, all that would be.    

DeBesse, having already gone over the concept with the offense, had the reverse call in queue. For Kennedy, it was only a matter of time.

"I kind of knew he was going to call it at some point in the game because he told us before the game and we practiced it so much," Kennedy reflected. "I don't know, just leading up to it I just knew it was going to come. I didn't know when specifically in the game, I just knew when he called it I had to make something happen."

Georgia Southern's leading receiver, fourth-leading rusher and the team's kick and punt return specialist, Kennedy is a dynamic talent who brings valuable versatility to the field. He, listed as a slot-back, pressures opposing defenses with his speed and explosiveness. As Saturday night validated, Kennedy can be used a variety of different ways. Expect his role to only expand as the season progresses.

Kennedy is the only player in college football with multiple attempts to currently average over ten yards per rush and over 25 yards per reception.

"It's kind of a natural thing, I just try and go ball anywhere, anywhere coach puts me. I just work hard during the week and it comes easy during the game," Kennedy explained. "Whatever coach puts me in the position to do, I'll get it done."

The finish to the Georgia Southern vs Arkansas State clash gives the Eagles considerable traction moving forward. At 3-1 with the one loss coming at Clemson, Georgia Southern will be favored in its next three games leading into a potentially-massive late October Thursday night showdown with rival Appalachian State on ESPNU. Though a lot of work still obviously has to be done, the idea of the Eagles hosting the inaugural Sun Belt Conference Game has emerged as a very real talking point.    

Not only beating Arkansas State, but the finish to the game has brought even more energy to Georgia Southern. Though it's impossible to measure the excitement in Statesboro, a good starting point would be 47 yards.  

"It gives us a lot of confidence really," Kennedy added. "Going into that game, we knew it was going to be a dog fight, we knew it was going to come down to the end. That just boosted us and, as long as we stay on the grind each week, it's just going to keep boosting us up each week."

Recent results at Georgia Southern have had a retro feel. The Eagles, "The Reverse" included, are on their way back.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports