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Bishop: Capping VanGorder's first year

    Georgia Southern found a new way to lose a football game on Saturday — even though they lost in the same ol’ fashion they’ve been losing all season.
    In a wild and wacky contest Saturday at Paulson Stadium, the Eagles gave Central Arkansas a 34-31 overtime victory to seal the worst GSU season in the modern era.
    Once again, like it has so often this year, it came down to the kickers. Neither UCA’s James Paul  or Southern’s Jonathan Dudley gave their team’s much of a chance (maybe because both wore the No. 13 jersey). In the end, it was Paul who put his team over the top. But it never should have come to that.
    The Eagles built a 13-point lead in the first half in a frame of football that can’t be described as anything less than crazy.
    After Cameron Kinnard took the opening kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown to start the game (silencing the standing room optional crowd of 11,159), Georgia Southern stormed right back to tie the game on a 10-play, 72-yard drive. The offense looked good and the defense had yet to take the field.
    The tide then began to turn in GSU’s favor, as Superman Jayson Foster returned a Bears’ punt 78 yards for an electrifying score. It was the first punt return for a TD for the Eagles in two years.
    With plenty of momentum, Southern forced a three-and-out and went straight to the air on its next offensive play.
    I mean, wouldn’t you if you’re defense was playing well and you had an early seven-point lead at home?
    Sophomore quarterback Travis Clark’s pass was picked off.
    The Bears then drove to the Eagle 2, fumbled away the football, got the ball back, then missed a field goal. That set up another Foster score, this time on the botched reverse. You know, the play where the receiver takes the reverse, fumbles the hand-off, picks it up, splits the defense, breaks some tackles, nearly falls down, is helped to his feet by his own offensive lineman, then scampers for 39 yards for a touchdown?
    Yeah, that one.
    So the Eagles were in business. A 20-7 lead (after a fumbled extra point) against a transitional Division-II school on Senior Day. What could go wrong?
    Plenty.
    The Bears came right back and scored twice on passing plays of four and 14 yards to take a 21-20 lead. It still wasn’t halftime yet.
    But before the fans made for the exits (which they would eventually do), Clark hit senior Darius Smiley on a 74-yard touchdown pass, a thing of beauty. Clark then scrambled for the two-point conversion and GSU had your conventional 28-21 halftime lead.
    The two teams combined for 400 yards of offense, two kick returns for TDs, four turnovers, seven touchdowns and 17 first downs. Whew.
    But after all that, the Eagles looked to be in pretty good shape. After trading field goals in the third, Southern maintained that seven-point lead into the fourth. Could this be the contest that finally breaks a four-game losing skid and moves the Brian VanGorder era into a positive offseason?
    In a word, no.
    Central would eventually tie the game in the fourth quarter, and actually have a chance to win late in the contest. But Paul booted a 22-yard kick wide right and gave Southern a chance to be known as only the second worst team in modern history.
    The Eagles did their part, driving the ball inside the UCA 20. It was all up to the senior kicker Dudley, the kid who had lost his starting job, only to regain it on Senior Day, given a chance to be the hero. I would describe the sight of that missed kick, but it might hurt you eyes just to read it.
    So the rest is history. Central Arkansas got a banner win for their program (as did North Dakota State and Central Connecticut State) and VanGorder’s first season ended with a bang.
    It’s just too bad that bang was a Dud.

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