Georgia Southern trailed 14-3 at the break and 17-6 in the fourth quarter before putting together a dominating run to knock off The Citadel Saturday. The Eagles outscored the Bulldogs 15-0 in the final period to seal the 21-17 win and push The Citadel out of first place in the Southern Conference.
“We make adjustments throughout the whole entire ballgame,” the GSU coach said. “(The Bulldogs) played exactly like we thought they’d play us in the first half – everything we’d seen on video tape. They did the same thing in the second half. In the second half we played like we were capable of playing.”
One change for the Eagles (6-2, 3-2) included going away from the two-quarterback system that worked so well the previous week at Appalachian State. In the second half Georgia Southern wisely handed the game to senior quarterback Jayson Foster, who scored twice late to pull GSU though. Backup Billy Lowe didn’t attempt a pass or record a carry in the second half after going 4-for-8 for 20 yards and running the ball twice for six yards in the first two quarters.
“This week we just didn’t complete the passes that we needed to, so we went back to letting the o-line take care of the game,” Foster said. “We’ve just got to do a better job of executing.”
It was defense that carried the Eagles, holding the Bulldog’s to 33 points below their average. Hatcher said it was hands down the defense’s best performance to date.
“It’s a big confidence boost to show what you can do against a high-scoring team,” defensive end Larry Beard said. “But we’ve got to make sure we do the same thing this week.”
A depleted Eagle defense caught a break when a knee injury took star Citadel quarterback Duran Lawson out of the game late in the fourth quarter. Clinging to a 21-17 lead, GSU forced the Bulldogs to go three-and-out on their final two drives. Before leaving, Lawson threw for 153 yards and two touchdowns and tallied 109 rushing yards.
“It definitely had an effect,” Eagle linebacker E.J. Webb said of Lawson’s absence. “With the starting quarterback, your offense goes a lot smoother. The offense had to get into a whole different rhythm. When he wasn’t in there it helped out tremendously.”
The tough road continues for the Eagles, who travel to Spartanburg, S.C., to face league-leading Wofford in a 1:30 p.m. game Saturday. The Terriers (7-2, 4-1) are tied with Elon for first place in the Southern Conference and snuck out of Western Carolina with a 47-44 victory last Thursday. Wofford held on despite blowing a 37-3 lead and allowing 41 second-half points.
The Terriers have lost to just one Football Championship Subdivision team this year, a 24-13 defeat by Elon aided by four Wofford turnovers. North Carolina State is the only other team that’s topped the Terriers this season.
Georgia Southern leads the all-time series 7-5, but Wofford’s won four of the last five meetings, most recently a 28-10 victory in Statesboro last November. GSU’s last win at Gibbs Stadium in was a 48-10 decision by Paul Johnson’s 2001 team.
He said it
“Our backs are against the wall, and Georgia Southern’s not going to lie down,” GSU junior receiver Raja Andrews said. “We’re just guys who come out here to play and give it all we’ve got.”
Behind Wofford and Elon (both 4-1 in the league), Georgia Southern and The Citadel (both 3-2) are knotted for third place in the conference standings followed by Appalachian State (2-2), Chattanooga (2-3), Furman (1-3) and Western Carolina (0-5). This week Elon travels to Furman, The Citadel hosts Appalachian State and Chattanooga welcomes non-conference foe Western Kentucky. Western Carolina is off.
“It feels great to be a contender,” Foster said. “Last year we weren’t in a playoff race at this point in the season. Now we pretty much control our own destiny again. If we take it to Wofford and do what we are supposed to do, we’ll be right back in the mix.”
Alex Pellegrino can be reached at (912) 489-9413.