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Eagles pull out another win
GSU comes back from 11 down in 4th quarter
102707 GSU FOOTBALL 06
Georgia Southern quarterback Jayson Foster (4) jets past The Citadel bench and screaming Eagles fans on his way to a game-winning 80-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter Saturday at Paulson Stadium. The Eagles trailed 17-6 in the fourth quarter, but two TD runs but Foster kept GSU’s playoff and conference title hopes alive.
    For three quarters Saturday the Eagles looked hung over from last week’s upset of Appalachian State.
    Then Jayson Foster did what he does best.
    After trailing most of the game, Georgia Southern rallied from a 17-6 fourth-quarter deficit behind its speedy senior quarterback, who scored twice late to lead the Eagles past The Citadel 21-17 in front of a Homecoming crowd of 18,506 at Paulson Stadium.
    With the win, No. 22 Georgia Southern (6-2, 3-2 Southern Conference) stayed alive in its quest for a conference championship and a postseason bid. The Eagles also locked up a winning season after last year’s school-worst 3-8 debacle. No. 25 The Citadel (5-3, 3-2) entered the game in a three-way tie for first place in the league.
    “It was a very big win for us,” said Foster, whose 80-yard touchdown with 7:28 remaining stood as the game winner. “To be No. 1 in the conference, you’ve got to beat No. 1, and we came out and did that today.”
    Georgia Southern’s high-scoring attack sputtered early, but the Eagles finally mustered enough offense in the fourth quarter to pull out the win. GSU outscored The Citadel 15-0 in the decisive final period, and the Eagles outgained the Bulldogs 387-358 on the day. Foster finished with a game-high 157 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries and completed 11 of 16 attempts for 106 yards.
    With the visitors looking to add to a 17-14 fourth-quarter lead, Citadel kicker Mike Adams’ 29-field goal try bounced off the left upright, and GSU took over on its own 20. Two plays later Foster broke left on second-and-10 and sprinted down the sideline for the 80-yard score, which tied for the sixth longest run from scrimmage in Eagle history.
    What was going through his mind on the long, game-changing run?
    “Glance at the Jumbotron and make sure nobody is close,” Foster said. “Everyone was doing a good job blocking and doing their part. It was up to me once I break out past 10 yards to do my part.”
    After GSU went ahead, The Citadel had trouble moving the ball behind backup quarterback Bart Blanchard, who replaced starter Duran Lawson when he limped off the field with a left knee sprain on the Bulldogs’ previous drive.                 
    Blanchard directed the Bulldogs’ final two possessions, and the Eagle defense forced The Citadel to go three-and-out both times. GSU stopped the Bulldogs inches short of a first down on fourth-and-1 at The Citadel 42 with 2:44 left in the game and ran out the clock to preserve the four-point win.
    The Eagles credited their defense for pulling them though, and the 17 points were the fewest allowed by GSU this season. The Citadel entered the game averaging more than 40 points a week, second in the SoCon to GSU. Lawson was the main spark for the Bulldog offensively, rushing for a team-high 109 yards and throwing for 153 and two touchdowns on a 14 of 26 clip.
    “I was really proud with the way our defense played all afternoon,” Eagle coach Chris Hatcher said. “Other than a few penalties and missed tackles, we pretty much shut them down. Offensively, yards were tough. They had a great defense.”
    Georgia Southern didn’t score its first touchdown until there was 12:36 left in the game. Foster found room on the left side and scampered 15 yards for the score and then hit Raja Andrews in the back right corner of the end zone on a wacky two-point conversion play that pulled GSU within three at 17-14. On the play, Foster originally handed off to Chris Teal, who headed left before tossing it to Tim Camp, who sprinted right and pitched it back to Foster.
    The Bulldogs led 14-3 at the half after Lawson hit Tory Cooper on a 4-yard TD pass. The Citadel started the drive at its own 47 after Trevar Broughton blocked Dan Jordan’s punt. It was the fewest points in a first half by the Eagles since they were shut out in the first two quarters at Appalachian State in 2005.
    “Our offense had our least-focused practice all season long,” Hatcher said. “I was very, very worried, and we played like that in the first half. We missed some opportunities. We had some guys running wide open. I had a flashback to Elon in the first half because we were missing chances, especially with our defense playing so well.”
    After a stellar first-half performance by The Citadel defense, Georgia Southern’s offense looked like it was beginning to break through on the first drive of the third quarter. The Eagles had first-and-goal at the Bulldog 3 but couldn’t punch it in, instead settling for a field goal. Jesse Hartley nailed the 20-yarder, cutting The Citadel’s lead to 14-6 with 6:47 left in the third.
    Hartley then recovered an onsides kick, but the offense stalled and went three-and-out. The Citadel later went up 17-6 late in the third quarter on Adams’ 37-yard field goal.
    Georgia Southern broke open a scoreless game with Hartley’s 23-yard field goal late in the first half. The Eagles have scored first in every game this season. The Bulldogs answered immediately, taking a 7-3 lead on Lawson’s 3-yard TD pass to Andre Roberts in the far left corner of the end zone.
    “We lost to a very sound football team this afternoon,” Citadel coach Kevin Higgins said. “No one shuts down Jayson Foster for an entire game. We had opportunities, and it came down to two plays that did us in.”
    The Eagles hit the road next weekend, traveling to Wofford for a 1:30 p.m. game. GSU returns home Nov. 10, hosting Furman for Senior Day.

    Alex Pellegrino can be reached at (912) 489-9413.