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Turnovers Key Eagles' Home-Opening Win
Georgia Southern forces three fumbles in the fourth quarter, wins 34-20
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STATESBORO, Ga. - Georgia Southern's defense forced three fumbles in the fourth quarter, keying the Eagles' 34-20 non-conference football win over Austin Peay, Saturday night (Sept. 6) at Paulson Stadium. The win snaps Georgia Southern's (1-1 overall) three-game losing streak -two against Football Bowl Subdivision teams - dating back to last year.
Down by seven in the fourth quarter and forced to punt, Georgia Southern's Charlie Edwards pinned APSU inside its 10. On the first play Markeith Wylie forced a Jeff Lyle fumble and J.B. Shippy recovered on the four. It took just one play to tie the game.
Antonio Henton had a wide open lane for a touchdown. Jesse Hartley's extra point tied the game with 13:56 remaining.
On the Governors' next drive, Chris Rogers laid a hit on Ryan White and Wylie recovered the fumble, setting up the offense on the 38. Six plays later Henton scored from 16 yards out to put the Eagles ahead for good 27-20.
The Eagles allowed only three Austin Peay plays to turn a seven-point deficit into a touchdown lead. The Governors recorded one first down on their next drive, however, facing 4th-and-2 from the 42, Carson Hill broke up a pass attempt and the Eagles took over on downs. The Eagles covered those 42 yards on eight plays. Facing 3rd-and-goal from the two, Henton connected with Darell Norman on a touchdown pass. Hartley's extra point helped seal the win.
Chris Covington snuffed another APSU drive later in the quarter when he drilled tight end Jack Hoeh, who fumbled the ball and Lennie Richardson recovered.
"It's been a long time since we've won a game," said head coach Chris Hatcher. "We're still learning our team, we're still learning what we do well, but it was good to see that many young players today respond in the fourth quarter and we'll take 13 more wins like the one we had today."
After the Eagles stalled on their first drive, Austin Peay marched into GS territory. Facing 4th-and-2 on the GS 35, Richardson and Larry Beard stuffed White for a 2-yard loss.
The Eagles, led by Henton, drove into the Governors territory. The sophomore quarterback found Raja Andrews down the right sidelines for 36 yards, setting up the Eagles 1st-and-goal from the four. Two rushes by Adam Urbano resulted in the true-freshman's first touchdown. However the team was flagged offsides and moved back five yards on the extra point attempt. Hartley missed his first-ever extra point attempt as an Eagle, snapping his streak of 50 consecutive extra points made.
Andrews went back to field another punt by Ryan Key at the start of the second quarter. He caught it on his own 22, eluded several tacklers and scored a touchdown. However, the punt rush team was flagged for offsides, wiping out what would have been the second punt return for a touchdown in his career.
Lee Chapple hit Michael McIntosh on 3rd-and-long to set up a short fourth down inside APSU territory then Urbano converted on fourth down. Samair Baker rushed twice, Jarrell Crawford rushed it down to the one then Leander Barney punched it in for a 13-0 lead with 5:33 left in the first half.
Theo Townsend capped an 8-play, 87-yard drive that covered 3:16 when he scored from one yard out. The extra point cut Georgia Southern's lead to 13-7 with 2:17 before halftime.
On 4th-and-1 the Eagles tied a fake punt but Covington fumbled the ball out-of-bounds and the Governors took over inside GS territory.
With 24 seconds left in the half Gary Orr connected with Lanis Frederick on a 20-yard touchdown. Beard charged through the line to block the extra point attempt, making it 13-all heading into the locker room.
The Governors squibbed the ensuing kickoff. Terence Hall returned the kick to the Eagles' 40. Henton took off on an 18-yard run, down to the APSU 42. However, his pass was intercepted in the endzone to end the half.
Orr and the Governors drove down the field to start the second half, covering 67 yards on eight plays. His touchdown pass to Jontamion Forrest for eight yards and the extra point put APSU ahead 20-13.
Urbano broke through the right side but was hit and fumbled as the Governors took over on the GS side. The Eagles defense held APSU to a 3-and-out, however, on the first play of the next drive, Henton fumbled and Austin Peay took over on the GS 48 late in the third quarter. But on 4th-and-1 the defense stepped up again as Quentin Taylor and Beard stuffed Townsend for a loss.
"At halftime we were just 'out there'. We had no emotion, we were a flat group and they just stuck it to us. We tried reverses, we tried to fake a punt and fumbled when we would have gotten a first down. We just couldn't do anything right," admitted Hatcher. "And then I challenged them at halftime to come out and play better and then all of the sudden they had a great drive. We didn't do much, but in the fourth quarter our defense really stood up and forced some big turnovers. We then got behind that big offensive line and Henton and those running backs did a great job of running the football and we came out of here with a big win."
Henton finished with 103 yards on the ground on nine attempts and scored two touchdowns. He also completed 10-of-16 passes for 68 yards and another score.
Defensively, Covington matched his career-high of 11 tackles. The senior also shared on a sack and forced a fumble. Taylor, Hill and Brandon Echols had seven tackles apiece.
Urbano rushed for 41 yards and a touchdown. Norman caught three passes and Andrews hauled in two for 42 yards. Overall, the Eagles out-gained Austin Peay 224-123 on the ground and 313-292 in total offense.
Lyle rushed for 86 yards on 17 carries for the Governors. Orr completed 17-of-29 passes for 169 yards and two touchdowns but was sacked four times. Frederick caught a game-high six passes for 71 yards and a score.
The Eagles continue their four-game homestand next Saturday (Sept. 13), playing host to Northeastern. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Paulson Stadium.

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