STATESBORO — It’s becoming increasingly obvious that nothing will come easy for Georgia Southern this football season.
But the disappearance of a 13-point fourth-quarter lead only served as a backdrop for a gritty Eagle rally Saturday at Paulson Stadium.
Freshman quarterback Kevin Ellison scored on a 4-yard run with 1:59 left, and Georgia Southern fought back with a 28-21 victory over The Citadel.
The Eagles (4-2, 2-2 Southern Conference) rebounded from a loss at Samford last week and avenged a defeat to The Citadel last season in Charleston, S.C.
At times, Georgia Southern appeared comfortably on its way to a win. Then the Bulldogs (2-5, 2-3) struck for two touchdowns in a span of less than two minutes midway through the fourth quarter and took a 21-20 lead.
The Eagles let a double-digit halftime advantage get away last Saturday in a 44-34 loss to Samford.
This time, Georgia Southern fought back.
“We could have sacked the bats when it got to 21-20,” Eagles coach Jeff Monken said. “(The Eagles might have thought), ‘Well, here we go again. The same thing happened last week.’ But the guys kept fighting. It’s because of what they’ve done together to develop a sense of loyalty to each other and they’re going to keep fighting until the end.”
Senior Jerick McKinnon moved to fullback and ran 32 times for 198 yards and two touchdowns.
Ellison ran for 135 yards and passed for 138 yards while directing an offense that registered 498 yards.
Georgia Southern’s defense gave up only 272 yards.
WOFFORD 31, ELON 27
In Spartanburg, S.C., James Lawson hit Will Gay on a 66-yard touchdown pass and the defense made a goal-line stand as Wofford (4-2, 3-0) twice came from behind to beat Elon (2-5, 1-2) in a Southern Conference game.
Wofford was trailing 27-24 with 5:55 to go when Lawson threw the game-winner.
SAMFORD 34, APPALACHIAN STATE 10
In Boone, N.C., Andy Summerlin threw for 265 yards and one touchdown to lead Samford (5-2, 3-0) to a Southern Conference victory over Appalachian State (1-5, 1-2).
It was Samford’s first win in the series since 1970.
CHATTANOOGA 31, FURMAN 9
In Chattanooga, Tenn., Jacob Huesman rushed for two touchdowns as Chattanooga (4-2, 2-1) crushed Furman (2-4, 1-2) in a Southern Conference game.
CHARLESTON SOUTHERN 25, VIRGINIA MILITARY 17
In Lexington, Va., Larry Jones caught five passes for 103 yards, including the 48-yard go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter, to lift Charleston Southern (7-0) over Virginia Military Institute (1-5) in a Big South Conference opener.
COASTAL CAROLINA 42, GARDNER-WEBB 7
In Conway, S.C., Lorenzo Taliaferro scored three touchdowns on 144 yards rushing and Coastal Carolina (6-0) ran away from Gardner-Webb (4-3) in the Big South Conference opener for both schools.
MERCER 35, VALPARAISO 21
In Macon, Ga., John Russ had 292 total yards, ran for two touchdowns and threw for two more as Mercer (5-1, 2-1) beat Valparaiso (1-5, 1-2) in a Pioneer Football League game.
TROY 35, GEORGIA STATE 28
In Atlanta, Corey Robinson threw three touchdown passes on 350 yards passing, including a 54-yard strike late in the game, to lead Troy (4-3, 1-1) over Georgia State (0-6, 0-4) in a Sun Belt Conference game.
FLORIDA A&M 27, SAVANNAH STATE 14
In Savannah, Ga., Damien Fleming threw two touchdown passes and Devonte Johnson returned a punt 63 yards for a score as Florida A&M (2-4, 1-1) beat Savannah State (1-6, 0-3) in a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference game.