Originally created 12/03/01

Experience helps Eagles advance

STATESBORO, Ga. -- At times, it looked like a Keystone Cops routine. Georgia Southern was trying to run defensive players on and off the field to match Florida A&M formations.

And it wasn't working.

Florida A&M's no-huddle offense had the Eagles confused - and behind.

Georgia Southern trailed by two touchdowns before bouncing back for a 60-35 win Saturday that put the Eagles in the second round of the NCAA Division I-AA playoffs.

"It was real confusing," defensive tackle Freddy Pesqueira said. "They did so many different things and did them so quickly, it was hard to keep up. We expected them to just come out throwing the ball. Instead, they line up in an 'I' the first play.

"Then they start subbing for everybody without a huddle. It was real confusing."

Georgia Southern (11-1) earned the right to play host to Appalachian State in the second round. The Eagles beat Appalachian State 27-17 on the road Oct. 13.

In the end, it was experience that bailed the Eagles out. They decided to stop trying to match Florida A&M's every move.

"When we limited our groups out there, put guys on the field and didn't try to match up every time they substituted, and just let our guys play, we started to get it together," Eagles coach Paul Johnson said.

Georgia Southern, after all, has been here before. The Eagles have won six national championships, including the last two. And they were playing at home.

Georgia Southern now is 13-0 all-time in first-round playoff games and 26-0 in postseason games at 18,000-seat Paulson Stadium. The Eagles have a 38-game home winning streak, tying the Division I-AA record they set from 1985-90. Since Paulson Stadium opened in 1984, the Eagles are 118-11 at home.

"I'm sure we had some people scared in the first half," Florida A&M quarterback Quinn Gray said. "If football was a one-half game, we'd be going to the second round."

Gray, hampered by a sore left knee after a hard first quarter hit, completed 15 of 35 passes with three interceptions and Kelsie Lordeus rushed for 107 yards on 17 carries for the Rattlers.

"When Quinn was injured, I felt that was when the momentum changed," Rattlers coach Billy Joe said. "When you lose your leader, you lose your emotion. When Quinn went down, we could feel it in our gut."

Still, it was a wide-open game. Georgia Southern finally figured out a way to contain the Rattlers, but never really stopped them. Florida A&M (7-4) rattled off 97 plays for 480 yards. But, in the fourth quarter, the Eagles came up with three turnovers and turned all of them into scores.

"They're a great football team," Gray said. "You've got to give them credit. They made all the adjustments."

J.R. Revere passed for 161 yards, including a 72-yard touchdown toss to Mark Myers. Revere also ran for 80 yards on keepers for the Eagles. And, of course, Adrian Peterson did what he does. He ran, and ran, and ran.

Peterson, whose No. 3 has already been retired, rushed 20 times for 153 yards and two TDs. His 45-yard TD run put Georgia Southern in front 33-28 with 8:14 left in the third quarter.

This marked the 13th straight playoff game in which Peterson has rushed for 100 yards or more. Overall, Peterson has rushed for 100 yards in 41 of his 43 career games for the Eagles, including a streak of 36 in a row that was halted earlier this season.


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