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Eagles lay big egg

 

SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- It wasn’t Georgia Southern making a statement to the Southern Conference on the way out to the Football Bowl Subdivision.

            Wofford was the one making all the statements.

            The Eagles -- the only unbeaten team in the Southern Conference heading into the weekend -- fumbled six times, lost two, threw an interception, committed 5 penalties for 76 yards and turned it over on downs three times as the Wofford Terriers came away with a 30-20 win on Saturday at Gibbs Stadium.

“You’ve gotta make first downs and keep the chains moving, and we didn’t do that,” GSU coach Jeff Monken said. “We made enough errors on both sides, and in the kicking game. We didn’t play good enough to win. We didn’t play very well. We didn’t block them, we got blocked by them, we didn’t deny the passes when they threw them down the middle of the field over our head.”

Wofford quarterback Michael Weimer completed 4 passes for 111 yards and a touchdown.

            It was the first time Wofford defeated the Eagles in Spartanburg since Sept. 17, 2005, and it ended a three-game winning streak by GSU over the Terriers dating back to 2010.

            The Eagles lost their SoCon opener for the second-straight year before winning a share of the league title in 2012.

Wofford (2-1, 2-0 SoCon) out-gunned the Eagles by pulling ahead 30-14 in the second half, and Georgia Southern (2-1, 0-1) ran out of time.

            “We had opportunities to make it a game,” said GSU quarterback Jerick McKinnon, who split snaps with redshirt freshman Kevin Ellison. “We made mistakes. There are a lot of things we have to clean up. We have to be focused and sharpen up things. We put ourselves in bad situations.”

McKinnon scored from 2 yards out with 26 seconds remaining, and the two-point conversion failed when William Banks was stuffed at the 2-yard line, leaving the Eagles trailing by 10.

The onside kick ended up in Wofford’s possession.

Wofford’s Ray Smith scored on a 32-yard run to put the Terriers ahead 23-14 in the third quarter, and Jonny Martin put the icing on the cake with a 23 run in the fourth.

The Eagles outgained the Terriers 426-391, but allowed 20 unanswered points after leading 14-10 in the second quarter.

            Wofford led in during most of the first half, mostly due to Georgia Southern miscues.

            Leading 14-10 late in the second quarter, GSU safety Deion Stanley intercepted a Michael Weimer pass in the end zone with 1:41 remaining before the break.

            The ensuing drive didn’t go as planned when GSU went three-and-out and had to punt, giving the Terriers the ball at their own 40.

            Consecutive passes of 20 and 40 yards from Weimer to Jeff Ashley for a touchdown just 15 seconds later.

“We had momentum at the end of the first half when we picked the ball off,” Monken said, “but we let them hit a couple big pass plays on us and they took the lead at halftime.

            Disaster struck again when a fumbled pitch by McKinnon gave Wofford the ball back again at the 33-yard line with 2 seconds left. Fortunately for the Eagles, Kasey Redfern’s 50-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left as time expired.

            Wofford opened the game by thundering down the field on a 15-play, 65-yard drive and took a 7-0 lead after Martin scored from a yard out. The Terriers converted three third downs on the drive.

            After GSU quarterback Kevin Ellison started the ballgame at quarterback, the opening drive yielded three fumbles and a punt.

            The Eagles got it back after Wofford turned it over on downs, and had a pair of penalties set them back to 2nd-and-29 from the 30.

            Ellison completed an 18-yard pass to Zach Walker, and saved the drive on 3rd-and-11 when he ran a draw and took it 53 yards to the Wofford 2.

            McKinnon scored from a yard out to tie the game at 7-7.

            A 40-yard Redfern field goal early in the second quarter gave the Terriers a 10-7 lead.

            After both teams turned it over on downs, the Eagles mounted a 46-yard drive that was capped off with a four-yard touchdown run by Torrance Hunt.

            Georgia Southern returns home to face Chattanooga on Sept. 28, after a bye next weekend.

            “Hopefully we’ll play better in two weeks,” Monken said. “We’re going to have to.”

 

            Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.

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