STATESBORO, Ga. - Two previous playoff matchups left Georgia Southern and Delaware even in wins and points. But Saturday, those teams, once so comparable, hardly seemed on the same level.
The top-ranked Eagles never let their Northern visitors get comfortable at Paulson Stadium, where the temperature on the field reached 104 degrees for the noon kickoff.
It was a lot hotter when Georgia Southern applied the pressure. The Eagles dominated the ground game and defeated the Blue Hens 38-7 before 16,105 fans.
"Football hasn't changed a lot," said Georgia Southern coach Paul Johnson. "If you can run the football and stop the run, you give yourself a chance."
The Eagles (2-0) had more than a chance after piling up 349 rushing yards and holding the Hens to just 88 yards on the ground.
Fullback Adrian Peterson continued his assault on the record books. He ran for 121 yards and a touchdown, breaking an all-division mark with his 33rd straight 100-yard game. Division III's R.J. Bowers set the record last season after compiling 32 consecutive 100-yard games.
Peterson, whose career rushing yardage increased to 5,413 yards, also broke the Southern Conference career rushing record once held by Virginia Military's Thomas Haskins.
But Peterson wasn't a one-man show Saturday. Teammate J.R. Revere added 117 yards and two touchdowns.
"Today, the skill of Revere and Peterson was just too much for us," said Delaware coach Tubby Raymond, whose squad fell to 0-2.
The Eagles' defense wasn't bad either. The 15th-ranked Blue Hens managed only seven first downs, four coming on one drive.
Georgia Southern defenders had 10 tackles for losses and five sacks.
"I thought we executed against the Wing-T (offense) better than I anticipated," said Eagles defensive coordinator Rusty Russell, whose squad edged the Blue Hens 27-18 last season in the Division I-AA semifinals.
Delaware won the first meeting between the teams, 16-7 in the 1997 quarterfinals. This time, Georgia Southern's defense dominated the action.
Cornerback Dreck Cooper returned a fumble for a touchdown and had an interception that set up a field goal. But the 5-foot-7, 160-pound cornerback made one of his biggest plays near the goal line.
On fourth-and-1 from the Georgia Southern 5, Blue Hens halfback Butch Patrick ran a sweep to the right. The play might have worked, but Cooper took on the Delaware blocking, leaving lineman Freddy Pesqueira and the rest of the defense a clear lane to bring down Patrick for a 2-yard loss.
"I told Dreck if he keeps playing well, he'll have a chance to make the All-Midget team," Russell said.
The Hens didn't make a first down until their third possession. And that wasn't a reason to celebrate. Antawn Jenkins blasted up the middle for 19 yards only to run into a jarring tackle by safety James Young. Jenkins fumbled, and Georgia Southern lineman Carlton Oglesby recovered at the Delaware 39.
Four plays later, Revere dived in from the 1 to begin the scoring.
Cooper's 58-yard return of Sam Postlethwait's fumble made it 14-0 on the first play of the second quarter.
Less than four minutes later, Peterson capped a three-play, 67-yard drive with a 6-yard touchdown run to make it 21-0.
Delaware answered with its best march of the day. Postlethwait completed five passes on a 13-play, 72-yard drive. The last completion went 19 yards to Jamin Elliott for a touchdown, cutting Georgia Southern's advantage to 21-7.
But the Eagles never sweated on this day. Scott Shelton booted a career-long 42-yard field goal on the final play of the half.
Revere and Kevin Davis added second-half touchdowns. The Eagles' reserves played most of the fourth quarter.
"I didn't expect to be out in the third quarter," Revere said. " (Delaware) is still a good team, but today was our day."
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