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  • GSU beats Elon, 38-21

    STATESBORO, Ga. - Georgia Southern (3-1) posted 508 yards of offense, 379 coming on the ground as the Eagles won their Southern Conference opener 38-21 over 10th-ranked Elon (1-3) in Paulson Stadium Saturday night (Sept. 25). It was the second time in four games the Eagles had posted more than 500 yards of offense after opening 2010 with 540 yards against Savannah State.

    "I was really proud of our team's effort," said Eagles Head Coach Jeff Monken. "They played hard and they did what we have to do in the second half to win a football game. It was a great crowd and the guys played with a lot of energy and a lot of passion. It was really just a great team effort."

    Tied at 14-14 at the half, Georgia Southern scored 24 points in the second half and held Elon to only one touchdown in the victory. Where the Eagle offense scored its most second-half points of the season against the Phoenix, the defense limited Elon to only 125 yards of offense in the second stanza.

    Both teams punted the ball away on their first drives of the second half, but after a 26-yard Elon punt, Georgia Southern capitalized on the field position, starting with the ball at its own 35. The Eagles ate up 6:01 of time with a 65-yard drive ending with Darreion Robinson's (Bishop, Ga.) four-yard rushing touchdown on 3-and-1 to give the Eagles a 21-14 lead. Getting the ball back at the GS 44-yard line after holding Elon to three-and-out and after a 30-yard punt, Darreion Robinson's 23-yard carry brought Georgia Southern to the Elon 16. Junior Nico Hickey (Columbus, Ga.), Banks and Shaw pushed the ball to the four-yard line where Tobi Akinniranye (Atlanta, Ga.) punched it in to put the score at 28-14.

    Sophomore nose tackle Brent Russell (Comer, Ga.) sacked Riddle for a loss of nine to start Elon's next drive. After Riddle completed a pass to A.J. Harris for 11 yards, his next throw was into the hands of junior Laron Scott (Warner Robins, Ga.) who took the interception 36 yards for an Eagle defensive score and a 35-14 Georgia Southern advantage. For Scott, it was the second career interception return for a touchdown after one in his 2009 debut against Albany.

    Georgia Southern held Elon scoreless through the 8:52 mark of the fourth quarter when Mellette was the recipient of another Riddle touchdown pass. On the Phoenix's longest scoring drive of the night, Riddle completed eight passes in the drive, a 17-yard pass to Newsome and the 19-yard touchdown pass to Mellette to go 85 yards in 4:08 and 13 total plays.

    Junior safety Derek Heyden (Atlanta, Ga.) led the Eagles with a career-best tying eight tackles and freshman linebacker Carlos Cave (Macon, Ga.), making his first start, had a career-best seven total tackles. The Georgia Southern defense had an impact early in the game as the first drive of the game for the Phoenix ended in an interception by E.J. Webb deep in Georgia Southern territory, thwarting the opportunity for the score.

    Georgia Southern turned over the ball on its possession, setting up Elon for a drive beginning on its own 37. Riddle connected on five straight passes, two to Peterson, including the 15-yard touchdown score, covering 63 yards and using a mere 1:55 off the clock, for a 7-0 Phoenix lead.

    Georgia Southern, in its longest scoring drive of the season in plays, yards and time, took the ball 86 yards in 15 plays and 7:51 put the Eagles on the board as junior quarterback Jaybo Shaw (Flowery Branch, Ga.) ran for the final yard of the drive and a touchdown to tie the game at 7-7. The Eagles stymied Elon, giving up a first down on third-and-five, then allowing only a two-yard carry by Brandon Newsome before an incomplete pass and sack of Riddle by sophomore linebacker Josh Rowe (Opelika, Ala.) and Terico Agnew (Stockbridge, Ga.) ended the drive.

    Freshman Darries Robinson's (Brunswick, Ga.) popped to the right side for 14 yards on the opening play of the Eagles' drive midway through the second quarter. After two first downs and a penalty first down, Georgia Southern was at the Elon 31 facing 4th-and-7. Shaw hit freshman Tray Butler (Stockbridge, Ga.) for an 18-yard reception, landing the Eagles at the Elon 13. Senior Lee Banks (Augusta, Ga.) picked up nine yards on the next play and Akinniranye added two up the middle to put Georgia Southern on the Elon two-yard line. Shaw held onto the ball to score for the Eagles' first lead of the game at 14-7.

    Elon came right back with a touchdown, moving 70 yards downfield in two minutes, thanks in part to a 46-yard catch by Aaron Mellette. Riddle connected with Peterson for a 12-yard pass, then A.J. Harris ran for six yards to put Elon at third-and-goal at the three. Mellette caught the three-yard touchdown pass for a 14-14 tie.
    Banks, who rushed for 44 yards in the first scoring series, finished the night with a career-best 121 yards on 25 carries. Banks had previously carried the ball only two times in his career for a total of eight yards. Darries Robinson had 92 yards, including a career-best run of 21 yards in the first quarter.

    Junior kicker Adrian Mora (Dalton, Ga.) added four more PATs to his totals, putting him at a perfect 65-65 for his career, just two shy of tying Reed Haley's record for consecutive extra points made in a career (67). Mora had a 23-yard field goal to complete the Eagles scoring in the 38-21 win.

    After the game, Monken paid a compliment to the Eagle fans at Paulson Stadium who witnessed the victory.
    "We need the fans here, if there is going to be a home field advantage, it starts with the fans," Monken said, giving credit to the 18,302 in the stands Saturday night. "If they come out here and show up, be loud and make noise, there will be no other environment like Paulson Stadium. I think the crowd helped us win tonight. Our guys play harder, play with more energy and enthusiasm. That's what makes playing here at Georgia Southern so special."

    NOTES: Jeff Monken became the first Georgia Southern head coach to win his SoCon opener in his debut season since Paul Johnson recorded a 22-7 win over Wofford in 1997... Georgia Southern did not record a single passing yard in the first quarter but finished with 129... Elon had only five net yards rushing at the half and finished the game with nine net yards... Georgia Southern controlled the clock, keeping possession of the ball for 19:10 in the first half and 39:33 for the game... Shaw recorded his career high with two rushing touchdowns... last time the Eagles defeated a ranked opponent was at #14 Furman in 2008 (17-10 on Nov. 15, 2008)... Georgia Southern last defeated a ranked opponent at home in 2007 with a 27-21 win over #25 The Citadel (10-27-2007).