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Eagles win at Paulson "North"
Georgia Southern powers into semifinals
Georgia Southern Woff Heal
Georgia Southern's Tray Butler dives into the end zone for a 25 yard touchdown catch against Wofford's Tommy Irvin during the first half of the Eagles' quarterfinal win Saturday in Spartanburg, S.C. - photo by Associated Press

 

SPARTANBURG, S.C. — Georgia Southern couldn’t play host to Saturday’s Football Championship Subdivision quarterfinals game against Wofford, so the Eagles brought Paulson Stadium’s crowd on the road.

An estimated 5,000 GSU fans made the trip to Gibbs Stadium as the Eagles defeated the Terriers 23-20 in front of a crowd of 11,823 to advance to the semifinals for the first time since 2002 and the 11th time in program history.

"We’re one of four teams left playing in the country," said senior cornerback Carson Hill, who has seen three different head coaches since becoming an Eagle in 2006. "I never thought I would see it, going through all the changes. Coach [Jeff] Monken gave me another chance, gave a lot of us another chance."

Wofford (10-3) trailed 20-3 at halftime, but stormed back, holding Georgia Southern’s offense to just 55 second-half yards on its way to 343 yards on the night.

"We weren’t blocking them very good," Monken said. "They were doing a great job of knocking us back and beating us across out face on the cutoff blocks. They were playing better up front, and they beat us."

A 58-yard kickoff return by cornerback Laron Scott, a First-Team, All-Southern Conference performer on both defense and special teams, set up a 37-yard field goal by Adrian Mora for Georgia Southern’s only points of the second half.

With the Terriers trailing 23-13 defensive end Alex Goltry recovered a fumble by GSU fullback Robert Brown and returned it 15 yards for a touchdown to bring Wofford within three points with 5:13 remaining in the game.

Brown (17 carries, 50 yards) broke several tackles on an eight-yard run, and took off when he saw daylight, but left the ball behind.

On the following drive, Goltry looked to make another play dragging GSU quarterback Jaybo Shaw down on 3rd-and-9 with the help of defensive end Ameet Pall, but Goltry was flagged for a facemask penalty, giving the Eagles a fresh set of downs.

The only other first down on the drive came on a 13-yard pass from Shaw to slotback J.J. Wilcox. The drive allowed the Eagles to run down the clock before punting with eight seconds remaining.

"They hit us in the mouth, but we were able to get some key first downs in the end to whether the storm," said Shaw, who led GSU in rushing with 60 yards on 15 carries.

The first Georgia Southern touchdown came on the first drive of the game.

Shaw’s only pass of the drive was a big one — a 25-yard strike down the right sideline to wide open Tray Butler. It was the second time this season Shaw and the true freshman receiver have connected for a score.

Wofford, which fumbled six times in the game and lost two, responded by committing a costly turnover when  quarterback Mitch Allen fumbled one away to GSU defensive end John Douglas, who returned it 20 yards for a touchdown that gave the Eagles a 14-0 lead just 11:16 into the game.

Mora and Wofford’s Christian Reed traded field goals in the second quarter, and the Eagles got the ball back with 1:05 to go before the half. Shaw led the Eagles into field-goal range by rushing twice for 35 yards and completing passes to Butler and Tyler Sumner for a combined 21 yards to set up a 21-yard more kick as the second quarter expired.

"It was just important to get some momentum back," Monken said. "We scored right before the half, and to feel like we had the lead stretched out to three scores again was important. It was a great job by Adrian putting that thing through."

The Eagles will look for a semifinals win on Saturday in Delaware. The game will be broadcast at noon on ESPNU.

The last time Georgia Southern won a semifinal game was a 27-18 win over Delaware on Dec. 9, 2000.

As the 2010 No. 3 seed, Delaware will get a chance to exact its revenge as it will host the Eagles in Newark, Del. The winner will face the winner between Eastern Washington and Villanova on Jan. 7, 2011 in Frisco, Texas for the FCS national title.

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

 

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