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Notebook: Not the ending Dudley envisioned

    The stage was set for an ideal ending to a career that starting so promisingly.
    Senior kicker Jonathan Dudley, ousted from his job as the starter eight weeks earlier because of inconsistency, had the chance to redeem himself in his final game as an Eagle. With Saturday’s season finale knotted a 31-31, Georgia Southern turned to Dudley, who was a 32-yard field goal away from lifting his team to victory.
    But Dudley, grateful for the second chance, couldn’t come through, sending his final attempt wide left. Central Arkansas later won 34-31 in overtime.
    “It was just one of those things. I didn’t hit the ball close at all,” he said. “It showed a lot for (GSU coach Brian VanGorder) to give me a shot. He showed a lot of trust in me, and I will always appreciate that. Anytime I have one more chance to play in Paulson, I appreciate that.”
    This season marred a successful career for Dudley, which began when he transferred to Georgia Southern as a redshirt freshman in 2003 and held the kickoff specialist job uncontested the entire year. He then made his first 13 career field-goal tries, a run that began in 2004 when he was named to the All-Southern Conference first team. That year he made all nine of his field-goal attempts and 56 of 62 extra-point tries.
    He opened his junior year by hitting the game-winner in overtime at Northeastern but later missed his last four attempts of the season. Dudley’s troubles continued into this year and eventually cost him his job after he struggled in a one-point loss at Chattanooga.
    VanGorder tried two other kickers but handed the reins back to Dudley because he was the most consistent in practice, the coach said.
    Disappointment aside, Dudley said he’s learned a lot this season.
    “For me personally, it’s definitely been a character-building year,” he said. “There’s no where to go but up now. It’s not exactly how I wanted my senior year to go, but you learn from it and you move on. That’s all you can do.”

Eagles say thanks
    Georgia Southern honored 14 seniors prior to Saturday’s game. They included: LB John Mohring, LB Jason Earwood, DB Renard Montford, DB Rico Zackery, C Lance Wayne, DL Charrod Taylor, LB David Willingham, WR Reggie McCutchen, WR Darius Smiley, DL Shaheen Solomon, PK Jonathan Dudley, DB Lance Turner, RB Wes Turner and student assistant Brian Kranz.
    GSU also recognized the late Teddy Craft, a senior wide receiver who died following a motorcycle accident in July.
    “(The seniors) have been a great group, they are the ones who brought me (into the program),” junior fullback Dusty Reddick said. “They’ve done so much. They play the game hard (even though) this season hasn’t gone the way we wanted it to at all. Two or three of these guys are going to be in my wedding one day, and I’m probably going to be in their wedding too. It’s a brotherhood, a friendship and that’s what we’ve been building here. The seniors have been on our mind all season.”

Extra points
    Solomon sat out with an injury. …Sophomore Brandon Jackson grabbed his team-leading fifth interception when he picked off a Nathan Brown pass in the fourth quarter. He finished one interception shy of the school single-season record. …Junior Dan Jordan punted 62 times this year, which tied him with Terry Harvin (1990) for third-most in a season. … Central Arkanas’ top receiver, senior Aaron Fairooz, left the game with a possible broken collarbone after a 43-yard reception in the first quarter.

    Alex Pellegrino can be reached at (912) 489-9413.

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