STATESBORO, Ga. -- Georgia Southern's offense can be compared to an old car. It takes it a while to get going but when it gets fired up, its hard to stop.
Elon College found out just how difficult the task of stopping the Eagles' high octane offensive attack was on Saturday night in front of 13,233 fans at Allen E. Paulson Stadium.
Despite a solid offensive outing, the Southern defense had a tough time holding down Elon's offense as Southern struggled to hold off the Fighting Christians 31-17.
Elon, currently in the process of moving from Division II up to Division I-AA, gave the Eagles a stiff battle in the season opener for both schools.
GSU (1-0) led 17-9 at halftime, but a fumble early in the third quarter allowed the Christians (0-1) to tie the game at 17 after Elon's Steven Ferguson scored on a 1-yard plunge with 10:23 in the third, followed by Chris Bryan's two-point conversion.
But Southern bounced back, getting a 21-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter from heralded freshman Adrian Peterson to make it 24-17 after kicker Chris Chambers' extra point attempt. The redshirt freshman from Alachua, Fla., making his first varsity start, finished the night with two touchdowns on 20 carries and 135 yards., setting a school record for the most yards ever rushed for in a season opener for the Eagles.
But on the Christian's ensuing possession, Elon marched to the Southern 27 on 10 plays. However, the Eagles dodged a bullet when kicker Austin Boone's 44-yard field goal attempt with 11:25 left in the game hit the crossbar.
But that wasn't the biggest play of the night. After Elon intercepted Greg Hill deep in its own territory late in the contest, the Christians tried to mount a comeback. But on third-and-six from their own 12, freshman Arkee Thompson intercepted quarterback Derrick Moore's pass, setting up Peterson's second touchdown of the night, a six-yard scamper for a 30-17 advantage and the game-clinching touchdown.
Georgia Southern used two long first half gallops, one each by former Lincoln County star Cherard Freeman and slot back Bennie Cunningham to build an early lead 14-3 and the Eagles never trailed against the Fighting Christians.
Freeman, making his first career collegiate start, put the Eagles ahead with 8:08 left in the first quarter when he took an option pitch from quarterback Greg Hill, cut to his left and rumbled down the sidelines untouched for his first career college touchdown. After Chambers' extra point, GSU led 7-0.
Shortly after Boone connected on a 43-yard field goal to cut the GSU lead to 7-3 in the opening moments of the second quarter, Southern retaliated with an 11-play, 43-yard drive that ended with Cunningham scoring on a 35-yard gallop. After Chambers' PAT, Southern held a commanding 14-3 advantage.
The contest was the first of three straight home games for the Eagles. Southern will host Jacksonville State next weekend at 1 p.m. before opening Southern Conference play Sept. 19 at home against Wofford at 1 p.m.