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GSU flops in 2nd half
Samford storms back from halftime deficit
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Samford quarterback Andy Summerlin drops back to pass against Georgia Southern on Saturday in Birmingham, Ala., at Seibert Stadium. Summerlin passed for a Samford record 495 yards as the Bulldogs defeated GSU 44-34. - photo by PAUL BARKLEY/Special to the Herald



    BIRMINGHAM, Ala. —Samford quarterback Andy Summerlin had the game of his life.
    Unfortunately for Georgia Southern, it was at the expense of the Eagles.
    Summerlin passed for 495 yards and three touchdowns on 23 completions and the Bulldogs beat visiting GSU 44-34 Saturday at Seibert Stadium.
Georgia Southern (3-2, 1-2 Southern Conference) led 21-10 at halftime, but turnovers on the first two drives of the third quarter led to nine Samford (4-2, 2-0) points and the beginning of an onslaught of big plays.
    “When you look at every scoring drive they had, it was a result of a turnover on our part, missed assignments on our part, missed tackles on our part, giving up big plays,” GSU coach Jeff Monken said. “When you look at every drive that got stalled out, we missed a block or missed an assignment or turned the ball over. You’ve got to play, It comes down to winning one-on-one battles.”
    On the opening drive of the second half, GSU put together a 12-play, 52-yard drive and appeared poised to go ahead 28-10, but quarterback Jerick McKinnon threw an interception to Samford’s James Bradberry at the 3-yard line.
“We didn’t go up and get it,” Monken said. “They did, and the next thing you know, they’re scoring.”   
    Two plays later, Summerlin found wide receiver Kelsey Pope (7 catches, 201 yards) on an 83-yard pass down to the 9. Back-to-back Samford penalties stalled the drive and the Bulldogs settled for a field goal that cut it to 21-13.
    GSU’s next offensive play was a fumbled snap. Samford later scored on a 9-yard run by running back Fabian Truss and failed on the two-point attempts to leave the Eagles clinging to a 21-19 lead.
    The Eagles’ next two drives ended in punts, while Samford scored on a 19-yard run by Truss and a 13-yard catch by Pope.
    Georgia Southern briefly retook the lead, 27-25, after Deion Stanley recovered a fumble that was forced by freshman defensive back Darius Jones, which set up a 27-yard touchdown run by McKinnon.
    “(Jones) made a great play on the strip,” Stanley said. “I was just lucky enough to recover it.”
Samford answered in a hurry.
    On the next two drives, Karel Hamilton and Pope scored on touchdown catches of 69 and 58 yards respectively to put the Bulldogs up 41-27.
    Summerlin averaged 21.5 yards per completion on the game.
    “They gave us fits,” Stanley said. “As a defense we need to be able to counteract their attack. We were balanced with man and zone and we were trying to give them different looks.”
    The Eagles last-ditch effort was a drive that was highlighted by a GSU trick play. WIde receiver B.J. Johnson took a reverse and threw it downfield to Devin Scott, which set up McKinnon’s second rushing touchdown and cut the Samford lead to 41-34.
    Warren Handrahan kicked his third field goal of the game with 12 seconds left for the final margin.
    Samford scored the first 10 points of the game, but the Eagles exploded for 21 unanswered points in the second quarter.
    Redshirt freshman quarterback Kevin Ellison threw touchdown passes of 24 and 58 yards to slotback Tray Butler, and William banks scored on a 15 yard run.
    Ellison was 7 for 7 passing for 140 yards. Banks rushed for 52 yards on 10 carries but missed the fourth quarter with an undisclosed injury.
    Samford tightened up in the second half, allowing 101 of GSU’s 259 rushing yards.
    “There was nothing new that we haven’t seen out there,” Butler said. “Sometimes things don’t go your way. The offense, we’ve just got to tighten up, play hard and just keep going. Samford played a great game. They matched us on every level and we just need to play harder.”
    McKinnon led all rushers with 181 yards on 33 carries. He scores both of his touchdowns in a bruising fourth quarter in which he ran 10 times.
    “In this offense, it doesn’t matter who has the ball,” McKinnon said. “You’ve got to be prepared to take a hit, especially in the Southern Conference. There are a lot of physical teams.”
    The Eagles return home Saturday to take on The Citadel at 1 p.m., in Paulson Stadium.

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