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Eagles survive a Citadel scare
GSU struggles, manages to notch victory
110511 GSU FOOTBALL 05 web
Georgia Southern slotback Johnathan Bryant (23) hauls in a 35-yard Jaybo pass against The Citadel to set up first-and-ten at the one-yard-line in the third quarter at Paulson Stadium Saturday.

      Watch highlights of Georgia Southern's victory over The Citadel in the 'Two-Minute Drill.' Click on link:


 Georgia Southern’s football team knows it got lucky.

The Citadel’s Ryan Sellers missed a 37-yard field goal, kicking the ball wide right, with 13.7 seconds to play and No. 5 GSU escaped with a 14-12 victory Saturday at Paulson Stadium.

A Homecoming crowd of 18,408 nervously watched as Sellers’ kick had the velocity and appeared to be headed through the uprights before missing.

GSU’s win, combined with unranked Furman’s 20-10 victory Saturday over No. 3 Appalachian State (6-3, 4-2), sets up a showdown for the Southern Conference championship between GSU (8-1, 6-1) and No. 9 Wofford (7-2, 5-1) Saturday in Spartanburg, S.C.

With seven victories against Football Championship Subdivision opponents, GSU has qualified for the FCS playoffs.

"We feel very fortunate to have won the football game, and very fortunate to have the opportunity to play for a conference championship next week," GSU head coach Jeff Monken said. "That’s what we hoped for, to have that opportunity."

The Citadel (4-5, 2-5), on fourth-and-5 at GSU’s 19-yard line, used its final timeout with 18.2 seconds to play. GSU senior Nico Hickey dropped to one knee and prayed during the timeout.

"All I could do was get on a knee and pray, and hope for the best," Hickey said. "The defense blocked two extra points, so I know the kicker was already a little nervous."

GSU’s Scott tried to block Sellers’ field goal but missed.

"When I looked back after he kicked it, it looked like it was going straight down the middle so I didn’t even watch the rest of it," Scott said. "I didn’t even know he missed. When I looked back and it looked like it was going through, I turned around and kept jogging like ‘Oh my goodness.’ And then the crowd started going wild. I looked back and everybody was going crazy."

The Citadel gave GSU all it could handle. The Bulldogs’ Kevin Hardy returned the opening kickoff 50 yards before GSU kicker Billy Greer made a horse-collar tackle, which gave The Citadel the ball to GSU’s 31-yard line.

Two plays later, The Citadel’s Darien Robinson ran up the middle for a 26-yard touchdown that made it 6-0. Sellers’ extra-point kick was blocked by Scott.

GSU responded on its first play from scrimmage with a 63-yard touchdown pass from Jaybo Shaw to Darreion Robinson. Adrian Mora kicked the extra point to put GSU up, 7-6.

"We saw on film that, maybe on first down, a formation that could be pretty good for us," Shaw said. "We were able to connect and the offensive line did a great job of protecting. Kentrellis (Showers) made a great block downfield and Darrieon, when he has the ball in his hands, he can make plays."

Said Robinson, "It was a little switch route for me. The cornerback came up. I guess he thought it was a run play. Jaybo saw that I had slipped him, and Jaybo hit me on the run. It was a great pass from Jaybo. And then I got a great block from Pat Barker. And once I saw he had his man, I just tried to get in the end zone as quick as I could."

GSU had a chance to score again with 1:59 left in the first quarter but Jerick McKinnon, playing at quarterback, made an errant pitch and The Citadel’s Quintin Turner recovered at the Bulldogs’ 18-yard line.

The Citadel produced a 17-play, 82-yard drive that chewed 8:51 off the game clock and was capped by backup quarterback Aaron Miller’s 2-yard touchdown run for a 12-7 lead. Sellers’ extra-point attempt was blocked again, this time by GSU’s Deion Stanley.

GSU played without All-America nose tackle Brent Russell, who served a one-game suspension for an unspecified violation of team rules.

The Citadel, which runs the triple-option offense, took advantage of Russell’s absence. The Bulldogs ran for 239 yards on 52 plays compared to the Eagles’ 191 yards on 49 plays.

GSU took a 14-12 lead on Hickey’s 14-yard touchdown run.

The Citadel ran for 143 yards on 30 plays in the first half compared to GSU’s 66 yards on 21 plays. The Eagles gained 89 yards passing. The Bulldogs did not attempt a pass until late in the third quarter.

Midway through the third quarter, GSU’s Shaw completed a 35-yard pass to Johnathan Bryant to The Citadel’s 1-yard line. Shaw fumbled on the next play and The Citadel’s Turner recovered.

"To fumble the ball on the 1-foot line … we had the ball out five times. Lost two fumbles. Threw an interception … we’ve just got to be smarter and do a better job of taking care of the football," Monken said. "We’ve seen fumbles before and how that can hurt us. We’re fortunate that didn’t cost us the football game."

GSU’s Shaw finished 4-of-7 passing for 129 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He fumbled four times, losing one. McKinnon ran for 53 yards on 11 carries. He had a fumble.

GSU’s Robert Brown ran for a team-high 90 yards on 17 carries.


Noell Barnidge can be reached at (912) 489-9408.