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Eagles hit the end of the road
Turnovers doom GSU in semifinal defeat
Georgia Southern Dela Heal2
Delaware running back Andrew Pierce (30) eludes Georgia Southern safety Derek Heyden (4) and looks to get past cornerback Carson Hill (24) on a 18-yard gain in the fourth quarter of Delaware's 27-10 win Saturday in Newark. - photo by Associated Press


NEWARK, Del. — Delaware beat Georgia Southern with its own game.

The Blue Hens controlled the clock, pieced together extended scoring drives, iced the game by running the football and knocked the Eagles out of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs with a 27-10 win in the semifinals Saturday at Delaware Stadium.

The Eagles did all of those things too, except their drives ended in turnovers instead of points.

Georgia Southern (10-5) rushed for 257 yards and averaged 5 yards per play, but fumbled the ball away four times — three inside the Delaware 30-yard line — and tacked on an interception at the end while the Blue Hens (12-2) played turnover-free football.

"Things could have been different had we not fumbled the football,’ said first-year GSU coach Jeff Monken. "You can’t do that against good teams in big games like this."

It all started on the first offensive drive for the Eagles.

They marched 60 yards down the field like clockwork, on large part thanks to runs of 22 and 19 off option pitches to slotback Darreion Robinson and a 15 yard scamper by J.J. Wilcox, but quarterback Jaybo Shaw fumbled a snap on the 1-yard line that was recovered by defensive end Chris Morales.

After a scoreless first quarter, the Hens scored 10 unanswered points and used their 4-2 defensive front to stuff fullback Robert Brown (13 carries, 49 yards).

"We had hats on hats, but the credit goes to them," said Monken. "They played a great game. They made the plays and we didn’t make the blocks."

Free safety Anthony Bratton controlled the perimeter, leading all defenders with 14 tackles in the contest.

"The kid’s an All-American," Monken said about Bratton, "He made some good plays and he did a good job."

The Eagles finally got something started before the half.

After a 21-yard field goal by Delaware’s Mike Perry that gave the Hens a 10-0 lead, GSU’s Laron Scott returned the ensuing kickoff 52 yards into UD territory.

A fumble by Wilcox ended the threat and the half. It was the first time the Eagles were shut out in the first half since they lost 13-7 at Navy on Sept. 11.

The Eagles got on the board on the first drive of the third quarter.

True freshman backup quarterback Jerick McKinnon, who entered the game in the second quarter at slotback, scampered 52 yards to set up a 40-yard Adrian Mora field goal and cut it to 10-3.

"I knew I would have had a chance to come in and contribute and help the team any way I could," said McKinnon, who led the team with 101 rushing yards. "It was good for the team, and they executed."

Shaw fumbled as he was sacked on GSU’s next drive, setting up a 24-yard pass from UD quarterback Pat Devlin (14 for 20, 137 yards, 2 touchdowns) to receiver Phillip Thaxton to put the Hens ahead 17-3 with 1:04 remaining in the third quarter.

Georgia Southern had one drive left on which it did not commit a turnover, and capitalized on 4th-and-goal from the 6-yard line when Brown took an option pitch to the right for a touchdown to bring it within 17-10 with 8:33 to go.

"We needed a touchdown at that point," Monken said about the fourth-down score. "We needed one bad."

Delaware answered with a pair of carries by Andrew Pierce of 18 and 35 yards. Pierce led all rushers with 186 yards.

Running back David Hayes scored from seven yards out on the next play to seal the game win put the Blue Hens up 24-10.

"I think our guys played hard," Monken said. "They played until the end, and I can’t find blame in that. You play hard, you play tough and you do the best you can. When you get beat, you get beat."

Delaware will face Eastern Washington for the FCS national championship on Jan. 7 in Frisco, Texas.

Announced attendance at the game was 10,317.


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


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