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GSU D steps up just in time
Eagles get crucial fourth-down stop for second-straight week

    Looking to make a late charge and send the Eagles home disappointed, Wofford lined up hoping to gash the Georgia Southern defensive line. It was fourth-and-2 with about five minutes to play, and the trailing Terriers were only 15 yards away from the end zone and the go-ahead touchdown.

    “From a defensive perspective, that’s what we always want — the game in our hands,” said junior end Larry Beard, who tackled Dane Romero for no gain on the play.

    That gave the ball back to the Eagles, who chewed up the game’s final minutes to preserve the 38-35 upset over the 10th-ranked Terriers Saturday in Spartanburg, S.C.

    The win moved No. 17 GSU (7-2, 4-2) into a three-way tie with Wofford and Elon for first place in the Southern Conference. The noteworthy tackle was the latest of what’s been a standout season for Beard, the team leader in sacks (3.5) and fumble recoveries (3).

    “Larry’s a really good player, and he’s probably played the most consistent of our defensive linemen all season long,” GSU coach Chris Hatcher said. “He’s been playing really well, and that play it just looked like he got an extra burst to him and made a great tackle.”

    Safety Chris Covington and Beard weren’t surprised the Terriers went for a first down on their final possession instead of attempting a game-tying field goal. Wofford prides itself on its running game and had already rushed for 341 yards on the afternoon.

    “They weren’t trying to tie us, they were trying to put it away right there,” Covington said. “We just stepped up and played a little harder that play.”

    After the defense stuffed Wofford on the key play, GSU’s offense capped a spectacular day with quarterback Jayson Foster’s 2-yard run on fourth-and-1 with 1:22 remaining, which allowed the Eagles to run out the clock and begin celebrating.

    “The offense played great,” Covington said. “They ran the ball down the field as much as they wanted to. You’ve got to give the credit to the o-line, the running backs and Jayson — they played an awesome game.”

    Up Next

    The Eagles are a frontrunner for at least a share of the SoCon championship and a postseason berth, but they’ll have to win Saturday against Furman before they can start making plans for Thanksgiving weekend.

    The Paladin game is one of the Eagles’ biggest rivalries, its roots dating back to the 1985 national championship. At 4-5 overall and 2-3 in the league, Furman’s clearly not the team it’s been over the last three seasons when it tallied 29 wins and a league-best 17-4 record in conference play while making three straight playoff appearances.

    The Paladins helped out the Eagles this past weekend by handing Elon its second SoCon loss, a 52-49 defeat in Greenville, S.C.

    GSU leads the all-time series with Furman 12-6, and the Paladins’ lone win in Statesboro came in the 2001 playoffs. The Eagles will honor their seniors at the 3:30 p.m. game (SportSouth).

    He said it

    “It’s a 180-degree difference,” Covington said when comparing this season to last. “As bad as it felt last year, the ride we are having this year is just an amazing feeling. It feels good to know we hold our destiny in our own hands again. I can’t think of any way better than playing Furman at home for the conference (title).”

    Said Beard: “What (this season) really shows is where we should have been all along.”

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