Foster's huge fourth quarter sinks Citadel
Georgia Southern 21, The Citadel 17
STATESBORO, Ga. — As he sprinted down the left sideline, directly in front of The Citadel bench, Jayson Foster watched himself on the video screen at the north end of Paulson Stadium.
"Don't get caught," the Georgia Southern quarterback told himself.
No chance of that, at least on this play. Corralled most of the afternoon by a determined Citadel defense, the Eagles' speedy senior broke loose for two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. His 80-yard sprint to the end zone with 7:28 left in the game lifted No. 22 Georgia Southern to a 21-17 victory over the 25th-ranked Bulldogs on Saturday in front of a homecoming crowd of 18,506.
Foster's fourth-quarter heroics — he ran for 113 of his 157 yards in the final period — wiped out a 14-3 halftime lead for The Citadel, and dealt the Bulldogs' hopes for a Southern Conference championship and/or FCS playoff bid a heavy blow.
With Appalachian State due in Johnson Hagood Stadium next Saturday, the 5-3 Bulldogs are 3-2 in the SoCon, tied for third with Georgia Southern (6-2, 3-2) behind Wofford and Elon, tied for first with 4-1 league marks.
"We just have to get to six wins and have a winning season," said Citadel coach Kevin Higgins. "That's the best thing we have to work on right now, is get to six wins and then go from there."
The availability of senior quarterback Duran Lawson for the stretch run is in question after Lawson injured the meniscus in his left knee midway through the fourth quarter. Backup QB Bart Blanchard ran the final two series for the Bulldogs, and Lawson limped off the field with an ice bag wrapped around his left knee, the same one he injured as a sophomore two years ago. He ended with 153 passing yards on a 14-of-26 clip with two touchdowns and one interception, and also ran for 109 yards.
"The doctor said it was the meniscus, and we'll have to further examine him and see exactly where he is," Higgins said of Lawson, who threw TD passes of 3 yards to Andre Roberts and 4 yards to Tory Cooper in the first half.
For three quarters, the Bulldogs' defense knew exactly where to find Foster, the SoCon's leading rusher and the spark behind GSU's rebound from a 3-8 record a year ago. The Citadel forced the Eagles to junk at halftime the two QB rotation that had surprised App State a week ago, and after three quarters, Foster had only 44 yards on 13 carries. The Eagles' offense, averaging a league-best 41 points, could manage only two Jesse Hartley field goals.
"Our coaches had a good game plan coming in, and it worked," said linebacker Andrew Rowell. "But when you are playing an athlete like Foster, one mistake or one player out of position, and he can take advantage. That's pretty much what happened."
The Bulldogs led, 17-14, when GSU lined up for second-and-10 at its own 20-yard line. From the shotgun, Foster saw Rowell and fellow linebacker Kendrick Lyles crowding the line. He called an audible, an option to the one-receiver side to his left.
"If they showed a certain look, we told Jayson to go to the option check, and sure enough they showed us that look," Hatcher said. "Their defender ran out with the pitch man, and the left side of the line did a great job of getting to the linebacker we had not been able to get to the whole game."
The rest was up to Foster, who hit the crease flying and dashed 80 yards for a 21-17 lead with 7:28 left.
"On any touch, he has a chance to go all the way," Higgins said. "Even though we controlled him for a while, there was never a moment we felt we had him stopped."
The Bulldogs had two more chances with Blanchard at QB, but Cooper was stuffed on third-and-1, forcing a punt. On the last series, tight end Taylor Cornett dropped a pass on third-and-1, and Cooper was stoned again on fourth-and-1 by defensive end Dakota Walker, a transfer from South Carolina.
Averaging 40.6 points per game, the Bulldogs could muster only a 37-yard Mike Adams field goal in the second half. He banged a 29-yarder off the left upright with 7:45 left in the game, after holder Mark Kaspar bobbled the snap. The Bulldogs blew another chance to score in the third quarter when tight end Alex Sellars, wide open on a post pattern, seemed to slow up as Lawson's pass sailed overhead.
"We missed some plays that we have to be able to make," said Higgins, whose team finished with 358 yards. "If you are going to be a championship program, you have to make those plays and obviously we are not there yet."