Eagles Win Thriller in Opener
STATESBORO, Ga. - Sophomore Adrian Mora kicked a career-long 44-yard field goal to cap Georgia Southern's 29-26 season-opening win over Albany (N.Y.) Saturday night at Paulson Stadium. The Eagles, celebrating the 25th anniversary of Paulson Stadium, started the year off by recording the program's 150th win at the stadium.
Early in the fourth quarter, Lee Chapple connected again with true-freshman Jamere Valentine on a 26-yard touchdown in the left corner of the endzone for a 26-23 lead. Albany tied the score with 6:24 remaining on Herb Glass' 33-yard field goal. From there Chapple and the Eagles got into a rhythm.
Sophomore Adam Urbano started the drive with a six yard run. On 3rd-and-5, Chapple found true-freshman Mitchell Williford for 13 yards. Chapple hit Urbano for 10 yards and another first down to the GS 47. Two more completions set up 3rd-and-7 as Chapple and Urbano connected for 12 yards and another first down.
After rushing for two yards, the sophomore quarterback found Williford for 11 yards to the Albany 25. Chapple found Urbano twice more but the team was facing 4th-and-11 from the 23 with 40 seconds left.
Mora, who earlier missed from 51 yards, sailed the kick through the uprights which proved to be the game-winner. His previous long was 42 yards last year in the season-finale at Furman. The drive took 14 plays and trimmed 5:44 off the clock.
The defense held Albany to just one completion in the final drive, the last attempt an incomplete pass by Vinny Esposito on 4th-and-8.
Not only did head coach Chris Hatcher start off the 2009 season with a win, the Eagles in the process ended a four-game home losing streak dating back to last year.
"It was a great win for us, there is never a bad win. Defensively I thought we played pretty good especially considering the type of offense we were seeing. We gave up a big play there on the fourth down, other than that I thought we played outstanding on our defensive side and then they got in to act early and they scored nine points. Finally there in the second half we got in a little bit of offensive rhythm and were able to move the ball the field, and what a great drive converting on third down. Adam Urbano had two big third down conversions and then Adrian Mora comes in and knocks the field goal down for a big win," said head coach Chris Hatcher.
After both teams could not capitalize on their first drive, the Eagles were held to a 3-and-out on their second. Charlie Edwards launched a 49-yard punt, and Justin Gannon could not hold onto the ball after Ronnie Wiggins' hit. Darrell Pasco picked up the loose ball setting up GS on the Albany 35.
The Eagles drove down to inside the 10 but settled for a Mora 24-yard field goal and 3-0 lead.
Albany capped a 16-play drive, including four conversions on third down, when David McCarty scored from a yard out. Later in the quarter Glass kicked a career-long 48-yard field goal extending the Great Danes' lead to 10-3. Albany looked to gain momentum again holding the Eagles to a 3-and-out, but Edwards' career-long 64-yard punt pinned the Great Danes on their own one.
Three plays later, Laron Scott stepped in front of Esposito's pass at the 15 and raced into the endzone for his first collegiate score. Mora tied the game at 10-all.
Albany staged another 10-play drive, highlighted by a fake punt attempt by Andrew Smith who rushed for 30 yards on 4th-and-4. The drive was capped by McCarty's 2-yard run. However on the extra point attempt, Brent Russell broke through the line and blocked Glass' attempt. Pasco scooped up the loose ball and raced in for a defensive PAT, making it a 16-12 game at the half.
In the first half, Albany rolled up 187 yards of total offense compared to the Eagles' 88 - 79 by Chapple (11-of-21) through the air.
Dion DuBose recorded 11 tackles in the first half alone, one better than his career-high of 10 during the 2008 season-finale at Furman.
Harland Bower sacked Esposito midway through the third quarter and forced him out of the game. That keyed the Eagles on their next drive. Chapple capped a five play drive in which the Eagles drove 75 yards. The sophomore QB found Valentine on a screen pass. He broke a couple of tackles and scored from 36 yards out. Mora's extra point made it 19-16.
The Great Danes used their third quarterback of the quarter, bringing in Smith. Relying on the run, Smith capped the drive when on 4th-and-1 he hit the pile, looked to be stopped but broke right and raced 39 yards for a score. Glass' extra point gave Albany a 23-19 lead with 3:36 left in the third quarter.
"Any time you have a lot of young players on your team a game like that does nothing but enhance our confidence, and then after the game in the locker room you would have though we won the championship. It's fun to coach those guys and like I've been saying all year we need some good things to happen to us. This year were able to pull it out to go 1-0 and that's the best we can be right now," stated Hatcher.
Chapple finished 12-of-12 in the fourth quarter - actually hit his last 15 in a row - and went 30-of-43 in the game for 259 yards and matched a career-high of two touchdown passes.
Valentine caught six passes for 79 yards. Urbano not only rushed for 53 yards, but caught a career-high eight passes for 48 yards after totaling five catches in all of 2008.
DuBose finished with a career-high 15 tackles. Fellow sophomore K.R. Snipes recorded a career-high nine tackles. Bower finished with 2.5 tackles for a loss and seven stops in all. True-freshman Darius Eubanks along with Wiggins recorded seven tackles each.
Mora matched a career-high of two field goals and converted on all three extra points. Edwards averaged 47 yards on five punts.
Esposito went 14-of-28 for 110 yards and the interception. Smith led all rushers with 99 yards while McCarty - a member of the Walter Payton Award watch list - was limited to 63 yards on 24 carries.
Justin Brancaccio led the Albany defense with nine tackles, including two for a loss.
The Eagles travel to South Dakota State next Saturday (Sept. 12), kickoff scheduled for 7 p.m. Eastern.
GAME NOTES: Mora has kicked a field goal in nine straight games, every game of his collegiate career... Scott's interception return for a touchdown was the first by an Eagle in six games. Former Eagle Damon Suggs caught a tipped Chattanooga pass in the endzone last year for a touchdown. The last time GS returned an interception for a TD at Paulson Stadium was November 12, 2005 (vs. Morehead State) when A.J. Bryant returned a pick 74 yards for a score... Chapple's 30 completions were the second-highest single-game total in program history. He owns the record with 39 completions at Furman last year... The Eagles have blocked eight kicks since the start of the 2008 season. It was the first career block by Russell... When Bower sacked Esposito in the third quarter that was the first collegiate sack for the senior defensive end... The announced crowd was 18,118.
- Category: Football
- Published on Saturday, 05 September 2009 22:47