Originally created 09/13/98

Georgia Southern struggles to second straight win



STATESBORO, Ga. -- Earthwind Moreland knew Jacksonville State's high-powered passing attack was going to test Georgia Southern's defensive secondary. He knew about the Gamecocks' passing attack, but he didn't know Jacksonville's ground attack was equally as impressive.

For the second straight week, it took a late interception and a late fourth quarter score by the Eagles to secure a victory as Southern fought off upset-minded Jacksonville State 51-32 in front of 10,803 fans Saturday at Allen E. Paulson Stadium.

Moreland had two interceptions in the fourth quarter, including a 62-yard interception return for the game-clinching touchdown to make it 51-32 with 28 seconds left in the game.

But as lopsided as the game seemed on paper, the Gamecocks were within a few plays of knocking off the Division I-AA fifth-ranked Eagles on Saturday. The game was another sloppy one for the Eagles. Despite amassing 570 total yards on the afternoon, the Eagles lost two fumbles and were flagged 14 times, tallying 115 yards in penalties.

"It was like a see-saw battle there," Moreland said. "We didn't do the little things that it took to open the game. I felt that once we did the little things, then the big things would happen."

The victory was still a big one in the eyes of Southern fans, considering the Eagles (2-0) open their Southern Conference slate next week here against Wofford. But coach Paul Johnson still wasn't pleased with th effort.

"I thought we did some good things today, but we allowed way too many stupid penalties and too many turnovers," said a perturbed Johnson. "It certainly would be nice to play a football game without turnovers."

The Gamecocks and Eagles were deadlocked at 20 at halftime, despite some pretty lopsided statistics. Jacksonville State managed just 138 yards to the Eagles' 356 yards in the first half, but the Gamecocks still remained in the contest.

Both the Eagles and the Gamecocks got involved in an offensive slugfest and a see-saw affair. After the Gamecocks took their opening possession in the second half and marched 80 yards on 13 plays to take a 26-20 lead with 10:12 in the third quarter, that was the last lead the Jacksonville, Ala., school saw in the contest.

Four minutes later, freshman phenom Adrian Peterson gave the Eagles a 27-26 lead with 6:08 left in the third. The freshman from Gainesville, Fla., who rambled for 135 yards and two touchdowns in last week's 31-17 win over Elon, finished the day with 219 yards on 21 caries and four touchdowns.

Peterson now has 354 yards on 41 carries and six touchdowns in just two games this season.

Southern's Chris Chambers also booted three field goals, his 22-yarder in the fourth quarter gave the Eagles a 30-26 advantage with 11:09 left in the contest.

However, trailing 37-26 late in the contest, the Gamecocks tried to rally, getting an 11-yard touchdown run from Kirby to cut the lead to 37-32 with 2:46 remaining.

But Peterson added his final touchdown run, a 25-yarder followed by Moreland's 62-yard interception return for a touchdown that sealed Southern's second win of the season.