STATESBORO, Ga. -- Wofford stifled Georgia Southern's Adrian Petersonfor the first three quarters, but when the game was on the line, he found a way to deliver.
With the game tied at 17 heading into the final quarter, Peterson keyed a 10-play, 65-yard scoring drive that gave Georgia Southern the lead for good, holding off pesky Wofford 24-17 in front of 14,055 fans on Saturday at Allen E. Paulson Stadium.
Peterson dove over a pile of tacklers on a gutsy fourth-and-goal call from the 1-yard line, then the Eagles defense held Wofford on a crucial fourth-down play at the Georgia Southern 39 late in the game to preserve the victory.
For the second straight week, Georgia Southern shot itself in the foot with penalties and turnovers. The Eagles (2-1 overall, 1-0 Southern Conference) cut its penalties in half from last week but still couldn't find a way to control its turnovers.
Two costly interceptions, including Chris Edwards' 40-yard interception return for a touchdown early in the first quarter, contributed to 14 Terrier points in the game.
"Turnovers and penalties, that has nothing do with athletic ability," Southern coach Paul Johnson said. "We're not making the progress I thought we'd make."
For most of the second half, it seemed the team that had the ball would win the game.
"We're not playing Georgia Southern football," wide receiver Chris Johnson said. "We're making way too many mistakes and we just have to clean it up.
"We gave Wofford several chances to win. We had chances to put them away, and then we turned the ball over. Turnovers and penalties will kill you every time. That was preached to us all week. It just seems like we can't get it together."
Wofford made its share of mistakes on offense, including a fumble at its own 30-yard line on the opening possession. But the Terriers' defensive performance almost made up for the offensive miscues.
"Defensively, they came out here and they were better," Georgia Southern quarterback J.R. Revere said. "They were playing assignment football, and they were where they needed to be. The 24 points we got, we had to work for them hard. You can sit here and evaluate yourself but what we had to do, we did it."
After the Eagles recovered a Wofford fumble, Peterson unveiled a new wrinkle in the offense.
On the first play, the junior Heisman hopeful took a pitch from Revere, stopped, then threw back across the field to Revere, who turned the pass into a 30-yard touchdown by leaping over two tacklers into the end zone.
But scoring wasn't that easy the rest of the game. The Eagles needed at least 10 plays to score on their other drives.
Wofford used an impressive 14-play, 69-yard drive, chewing 6:08 off the clock, that resulted in Darren Brown's 46-yard field goal to end the third quarter and tie the game at 17.
Heading into the final quarter, Peterson, who had just 79 yards heading into the final quarter, carried the ball on nine of the drive's 10 plays for the game-winning touchdown.
"I told them I wanted the ball," said Peterson, who finished with 145 yards on 32 carries and two touchdowns. "We needed some kind of spark and some kind of energy. So I was in the huddle telling them to give me a hole, give me a hole. And they kept providing for me."
Wofford (0-1, 0-1) held Georgia Southern, which entered the game averaging 424 yards of total offense, to 355 yards. Terrier coach Mike Ayers said he thought his defense played well enough to win the game.
"This is not even close to a moral victory," he said. "We felt like as a staff we could come down here and, if we executed, could have a chance to win. When you look at our execution from an offensive standpoint, it wasn't even close to what we're capable of doing, and that's the frustrating part.
"The fourth-down score, from the way I looked at it, I thought we had them stopped. We gave them the cheap one on a throwback, again that's a busted assignment. We had situations in the game that once we settled into the ball game, we were a lot more consistent, and that's what gave Georgia Southern problems. Yes sir, on the bottom line, we let this one get away from us. "
Reach Tim Morse at (706) 823-3216.