Foster's Record Day Keys Georgia Southern Victory
The announced crowd of 21,489 was the eighth-largest in Paulson Stadium history and most in three years.
Hatcher, who ended his Valdosta State coaching career last season with a win over the Wolves, saw his Eagles squad score 35 unanswered points in the second half and end a five-game losing streak that closed out the 2006 season.
Foster, back as starting quarterback for the first time since his sophomore year, set a GS record for most rushing yards in a season-opener. That marked the third consecutive year that an Eagle had set that mark (Jermaine Austin in 2005 and Chris Covington in 2006).
For much of the first half West Georgia (1-1) was thinking a repeat upset at Paulson Stadium. The last time these two teams met the Wolves pulled off a 15-14 upset back in 1994.
After forcing the Wolves to a 3-and-out on their first possession, the Eagles took over on their own 33. Foster completed a 13-yard pass to Raja Andrews, and then on the next play he broke out to the right and once he hit the corner was gone for a 54-yard touchdown run. Jesse Hartley converted the extra point for a 7-0 lead just 61 seconds in.
West Georgia responded with a 13-play scoring drive. James Kennebrew scored from four yards out and the extra point tied the game.
Facing 4th-and-long UWG went back to punt. Junior Tim Camp broke through the line and blocked Jared Guberman’s punt attempt, his third career punt block, which set up 1st-and-goal from the four.
The drive stalled but GS took the lead on Hartley’s 21-yard field goal, a 10-7 advantage with 5:12 left in the first.
A 45-yard pass completion was the key play in West Georgia’s touchdown drive. Keats Baldwin found Daniel Johnson for a 7-yard TD pass and 14-10 lead early in the second quarter. Later in the quarter Baldwin scampered for an 11-yard touchdown run extending the Wolves’ lead to 21-10.
West Georgia dominated the first half statistically, 255 offensive yards to Southern’s 135 and recording a 14-4 edge in first downs. UWG converted 7-of-11 on third down while the Eagles failed on their five attempts.
“We started slow. I guess it was first-game jitters. We made some mistakes and we had a chance to put the game away early, we just couldn’t do it. But I was real proud of the way we came out in the second half. We faced adversity on the first drive, we drive all the way and fumble and then our guys just decided they were going to win,” said Hatcher. “Probably the best thing that happened to us was to get down and find out what we were made of right off the bat and you have to take your hat off to Coach Ledford and West Georgia. I’ve played them many times and I knew what we were getting into today. They played an outstanding ballgame and we were just a little bit too much in the second half.”
Georgia Southern marched down the field to start the second half, but on 3rd-and-goal Travis Clark fumbled the exchange and West Georgia recovered.
Another highlight reel run by Foster cut the deficit to four. On 3rd-and-short, Foster broke through the left side for a 56-yard score. Hartley’s extra point made it 21-17. It was Foster’s 14th career multi-touchdown game.
On the ensuing kickoff West Georgia fumbled and Brandon Echols picked up the loose ball and ran it in for a score. However, the Eagles were flagged for offsides and negated the touchdown.
The Eagles held UWG again and took over on their own 42. On his first collegiate carry, true-freshman Zeke Rozier broke through the line for a 41 yard touchdown. That wound up putting the Eagles ahead for good.
During their next drive Foster connected with Michael McIntosh on an 81-yard touchdown pass, the third-longest in school history. Foster actually was part of the record-setting reception last year (receiver, 85 yards at The Citadel). Rozier tallied a 1-yard plunge midway through the fourth quarter for his first multi-TD effort. The true-freshman tallied 53 yards on seven carries.
Foster wasn’t quite done yet. He rambled 74 yards on a keeper for his third score. In fact, all three of Foster’s touchdowns were 50-plus yards, the first time in his career doing so.
The senior quarterback netted those 231 yards on 11 carries, an impressive 21 yard per carry average. He also completed 6-of-9 passes for 124 yards, the third time in his career he rushed for a 100 yards and threw for 100.
Defensively, the Eagles held West Georgia to just 83 yards of total offense in the second half. Brandon Jackson, Covington and Quentin Taylor all had seven tackles each. Henry Chubb and Chris Collier recorded an interception as the Eagles recorded eight tackles for a loss.
Lamar Lewis also turned in an impressive performance, rushing for 150 yards on 14 carries. Daniel Jordan averaged nearly 48 yards on five punts. In his first action as an Eagle, Hartley nailed a field goal and all six extra point attempts.
One of the team’s strengths heading into this year is a veteran offensive line. Hatcher commended the line tonight.
“Those are the guys we’re going to have to lean on all season long. They came out and really played well. We sit here and talk about how they’re a senior bunch and they have played in a bunch of games, but they’re freshmen in our system. It took them a little while just to learn that if you make a mistake, you get called for holding, don’t worry about it, we’ll be able to overcome it. My fears came true there in the first half. We knew that if we were in third-and-long, we were in trouble. We set a record for Chris Hatcher, for the fewest passes ever thrown in a football game.”
Baldwin finished 21-of-35 passing for 224 yards. Kennebrew tallied 49 yards on 18 carries. Joshua Mitchell recorded a game-high eight tackles.
Georgia Southern travels to Coastal Carolina next Saturday (Sept. 15), kickoff scheduled for 7 p.m. The game will be televised live on SportSouth.
- Category: Football
- Published on Saturday, 08 September 2007 00:10