STATESBORO — During their time as Southern Conference rivals, Georgia Southern and The Citadel built up a reputation for hard-fought, down-to-the-wire games.
When the Bulldogs squared off against the now-Football Bowl Subdivision Eagles Saturday evening at Paulson Stadium, however, that trend died hard.
The Eagles (2-1) outgained the Bulldogs (2-1) 484-360 and claimed a 4-0 edge in turnovers as Georgia Southern poured it on for a 48-13 victory.
“This was a good win for us,” GSU coach Willie Fritz said. “I think that’s an (Football Championship Subdivision) playoff team, and that’s what I told their coach.
“We made some big tackles and got a few (turnovers). On offense, we’ve talked about becoming a more-balanced team, and I think we took a step in that direction.”
Seeing his first action of 2015 after returning from a two-game academic suspension, Georgia Southern quarterback Kevin Ellison didn’t seem to have any trouble shaking off the rust. He went 10 of 17 through the air for 80 yards and rushed for 23 yards and two touchdowns.
Junior running back Matt Breida had his second stellar game in a row, rushing for 159 yards on 19 carries.
“It felt good to be back out there with my teammates,” Ellison said. “I felt comfortable. The defense did their job with some big plays, and we did our job putting points on the board.”
Georgia Southern wasted no time setting the tone as the defense set up the first score of the game. On third and 8, Darrius Sapp got a hand on a Dominique Allen pass and the deflection found the hands of Ross Alexander for the interception. The Eagles couldn’t find the end zone on the ensuing possession, but the great field position set up by the interception allowed Alex Hanks to chip in a 22-yard field goal to put Georgia Southern on top.
The defense added two more turnovers in the first half as Darrius White intercepted Allen and Riyahd Jones scooped up a fumble by The Citadel’s Evan McField.
Ellison’s first touchdown of the season was also the Eagles’ first of the day. The Bulldog defense made running lanes sparse, but Ellison powered through the line for a 1-yard scoring run just before the end of the first quarter to cap off a 16-play, 55-yard, seven-minute drive.
Following a quick three-and-out by The Citadel, the Eagles stormed downfield, and Breida broke loose for a 25-yard romp. Breida later struck again, bursting through a hole in the middle of the line and running untouched for 87 yards to make it a 24-0 Georgia Southern advantage.
“The offense had great flow and rhythm,” Breida said. “With so many guys back (from last season), we’ve got great chemistry that I think helps to create some big plays.”
Ellison ended the first-half fireworks as he spun off of a tackle and stepped into the end zone for a 9-yard touchdown run to make it 31-0 at the break.
The Citadel’s only highlight of the night came on its first possession of the second half. Evan McField squeezed through a hole up the middle and outran the Eagle defense for a 60-yard strike.
Georgia Southern answered with a 7-yard touchdown run by L.A. Ramsby and a 40-yard field goal by Alex Hanks — his longest of the season.
Wesley Fields got in on the fun early in the fourth quarter, scoring his first career touchdown off of a direct snap that went for two yards.
The Citadel dented the scoreboard one final time late in the game as Cam Jackson rushed for a 6-yard touchdown against the Eagles’ defensive reserves.
The Eagles are done with non-conference opponents for a couple of months and now dive into Sun Belt action. This week, Georgia Southern will travel to Idaho for its conference opener Saturday in Moscow.
According to govandals.com, Idaho (1-0) earned its first win of the season Saturday by beating Wofford 41-38. Quarterback Matt Linehan had 334 yards passing, while Elijhaa Penny had 99 yards rushing.