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Eagles win again, top Wofford
GSU in three-way tie for SoCon first
Georgia Southern quarterback Jayson Foster sprints past the Wofford defense for one of his three touchdown’s Saturday against Wofford in Spartanburg, S.C. The Eagles escaped with a 38-35 win to with their third straight and stay alive in their quest for a SoCon title and playoff berth. - photo by GERRY PATE/Spartanburg Herald-Journal
    SPARTANBURG, S.C. — The Eagles have done it again.
    For the second time in three weeks, No. 17 Georgia Southern pulled off a crucial Southern Conference upset on the road, this time knocking off 10th-ranked Wofford 38-35 Saturday in front of 12,124 fans, the largest crowd in Gibbs Stadium history for a college game.
    The win, coupled with Furman’s victory over Elon, put the Eagles (7-2, 4-2) in a three-way tie with Wofford and the Phoenix for first place in the league. Appalachian State is a half game back. With one SoCon game remaining, the Eagles are a frontrunner for a conference title and a postseason berth, pending a win over Furman at Paulson Stadium next weekend.
    GSU toppled the Terriers thanks to another outstanding performance from senior quarterback Jayson Foster, who ran for three touchdowns and 279 yards, a new career-high and his fourth 200-yard rushing game this season. He also set a SoCon record for most rushing yards in a quarter (174 in the first) and a half (232).
    The Eagles, playing with composure and discipline most of the afternoon, were penalized just once and won the turnover battle 2-0.
    “It doesn’t get much better than that — on the road against a team like Wofford,” said first-year Georgia Southern coach Chris Hatcher, who has orchestrated a remarkable turnaround for an Eagle team that won three games last season.
    A large and vocal contingent of GSU faithful witnessed Georgia Southern pick up its first victory at Wofford since 2001 and rain on the Terriers’ homecoming and senior day festivities.
    The deciding points came from junior kicker Jesse Hartley, who split the uprights on a 44-yard field goal to give GSU a three-point edge with 8:58 to go.
    “It was good, and that’s all that matters,” Hartley said. “It was just a great feeling.”
    Georgia Southern’s defense also had its share of big plays, most notably when Larry Beard stopped Dane Romero for no gain on fourth-and-2 at the GSU 15 with less than five minutes remaining. The stop came after the Terriers (7-3, 4-2) opted out of going for the game-tying field goal.
    “We thought we had the numbers, matter of fact we had the numbers, we just got run down,” Wofford coach Mike Ayers said. “We fought hard but made a couple of mistakes, and you can’t make mistakes against a good team.”
    Led by Foster, the Eagles racked up 424 rushing yards to Wofford’s 341, and the Terriers outgained GSU 500-481 in total offense. Lamar Lewis contributed 96 yards on 16 carries, and Mike Hamilton added 49 more and a pair of touchdowns, which tied his season high. Linebacker Quentin Taylor paced GSU’s defense with a career-high 10 tackles, while Chris Covington recorded eight and a key interception.
    Georgia Southern was up 28-14 at the break, but Wofford sliced the lead in half on its first possession of the third quarter when Josh Collier hit a wide-open Jeremy Marshall on a 44-yard touchdown pass over the middle.
    The Terriers followed up with a 2-yard TD run by Kevious Johnson around the right side to knot the game at 28 late in the third quarter.     GSU then went three and out, but Covington gave the Eagle offense another shot when he grabbed his team-leading fourth interception on the first play of Wofford’s ensuing drive. The Eagles took over at the Terrier 38, and GSU capped a seven-play drive with a 1-yard touchdown run by Hamilton to go up 35-28 with 14:14 remaining.
    Wofford marched right back down the field, evening the score when Andy Strickland darted 39 yards on a reverse with 10:52 to go. The Eagles answered with Hartley’s field goal and then ran out the clock after the key fourth-down stop.
    “The difference was we played harder than they did,” Hartley said. “We wanted it more. It was a full team effort, that’s for sure.”
    GSU struck first as Foster broke loose for an 82-yard touchdown run on the second play of the game. Wofford answered with a 3-yard scoring sprint by Michael Hobbs and a 19-yard touchdown haul by Justice Joslin to go up 14-7. But Foster found room again, this time darting 72 yards for a TD that tied the game at 14 with 5:17 left in the first quarter.
    Foster’s 3-yard TD run early in the second quarter — his third score of the afternoon — put GSU up 21-14. The Eagles later made it a two-touchdown lead when Hamilton barreled in from one yard out 3:06 before the half.
    “We are just going to enjoy this one, then Monday start getting ready for those purple people,” Covington said.
    Georgia Southern returns home Saturday, hosting Furman for senior day and its final SoCon game this season.

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