Georgia Southern scores three times in the second half but lose 45-21
ATHENS, Ga. - Georgia Southern made a second half run against the nation's top-ranked team but fell short in its upset bid of Georgia, losing 45-21 in front of a capacity crowd at Sanford Stadium on Saturday afternoon (Aug. 30). The 17th-ranked Eagles opened on the road for the first time in three years, and played against the top-ranked Football Bowl Subdivision team for the first time in program history.
The capacity crowd of 92,746 matches the Eagles' record for largest attendance they have played in front of (2004 game at Georgia).
Georgia Southern went 3-and-out on its opening drive then Georgia took possession near midfield. Matthew Stafford connected with A.J. Green on a 36-yard completion down to the two. Knowshon Moreno punched it in on the next play as the Bulldogs took an early 7-0 lead.
The Eagles held Georgia on third down but true-freshman Blair Walsh connected on a 52-yard field goal with 8:25 left to extend the lead to 10-0.
Late in the first GS drove into Georgia territory, keyed by Darrel Pasco's 45-yard kickoff return to midfield. A pair of offsides calls on Georgia, including one for a first down, and Antonio Henton's 18-yard pass to Tim Camp got the Eagles inside the 20. However, a 36-yard field goal attempt by Jesse Hartley went wide left. Chris Covington recovered a fumble (the fourth of his career) three plays later to set up the Eagles on the Georgia 35.
GS drove down to the one, but an offsides then a sack set up 3rd-and-goal from the 10. Henton was intercepted in the endzone by Dannell Ellerbe.
Right before halftime UGA marched 72 yards in 2:37, capped by Moreno's 3-yard TD run to extend the lead to 24-0. The last time Georgia Southern was held scoreless in the first half was in 2005 at Appalachian State.
UGA needed two plays to score a TD to start the second half. Moreno capped a 71-yard drive by scoring from 24 yards out. Later in the quarter Stafford connected with Demiko Goodman on a 5-yard TD, making it 38-0.
On the Eagles' ensuing drive Lee Chapple found Marcus Russ for a 21-yard completion on a 4th-and-5 from midfield. Darell Norman took a 26-yard reverse down to the one. Chapple dove in on the next play to put the Eagles on the board with 4:27 left in the third.
Chapple drove the Eagles 82 yards on their next drive for another touchdown, this time a pitch to fellow freshman Samair Baker from two yards.
Joe Cox hit Green on a 4-yard score but again the Eagles responded. Adam Urbano returned a punt 14 yards to set up GS on its own 46. Henton found Russ for 20 yards but three plays later was facing a 4th-and-9. The sophomore quarterback found Leander Barney on a 35-yard scoring strike for the final margin.
"We had a lot of questions at the beginning of the season. You could tell that our nerves got to us in the red zone. Our offensive line did well, we ran the ball exceptionally well today," head coach Chris Hatcher said. "We fought for 60 minutes and played very hard. We had a bunch of guys who will come out and fight. As the game went along the nerves went away."
Chapple started the game at quarterback and the redshirt-freshman completed 9-of-18 passes for 86 yards. He rushed for six yards and scored a touchdown. Henton was 10-of-18 for 102 yards and one touchdown.
Norman led the Eagles with 60 rushing yards on 12 carries. Russ caught four passes for 59 yards while Camp recorded a career-high 48 receiving yards on three receptions.
Quentin Taylor paced the defense with five tackles, including a 2-yard sack. Pasco, Brandon Echols and Dakota Walker recorded four tackles each.
Jesse Hartley connected on all three extra point attempts, extending his streak to 50 straight since the start of his junior year (2007).
Redshirt-freshman Charlie Edwards averaged 44 yards on seven punts, including a long of 55 and launched one that was downed on the Georgia one yard line.
"Their team speed is phenomenal, their receivers are bigger than some of our linemen," Hatcher said. "We found some things we are good at and some things we have to work on. Our two quarterbacks played well and they both made good and bad decisions today. We brought up 72 players and rotated them in and out to keep them fresh. The freshmen played well today."
Stafford completed 13-of-21 passes for 275 yards and two touchdowns. Moreno finished with 59 rushing yards and three touchdowns in addition to 53 receiving yards as the pair of Heisman Trophy candidates accounted for nearly 400 yards of total offense.
Corey Irvin and Darryl Gamble paced the defense with six tackles each.
NOTES: The Eagles held nearly a six minute advantage in time of possession in the first quarter, 10:52 to 4:08 but were down 10-0. Overall the Eagles held a 33:08-26:52 edge... GS was only 4-of-16 on third down but a perfect 2-of-2 on fourth down conversions. Last year the Eagles led the nation in fourth down conversions... UGA held a 535-290 edge in total offense but committed 11 penalties to the Eagles' three... In all 24 redshirt- and true-freshmen played and 32 saw their first game action as an Eagle.