End of the road: Georgia Southern runs into strong Delaware squad

NEWARK, Del. -- There won’t be a ninth trip to the FCS championship game for Georgia Southern.

That’s going to have to wait another year, but head coach Jeff Monken said the Eagles have nothing to hang their heads about.

Delaware capitalized on costly Eagles errors and quarterback Pat Devlin directed a balanced, mistake-free offense to bring Georgia Southern’s magic run to an end with a 27-10 win Saturday afternoon in an FCS semifinal game at chilly Delaware Stadium.

The victory propelled the No. 2 seed Blue Hens (12-2) into the championship game against No. 5 seed Eastern Washington (12-2), which defeated Villanova 41-31 on Friday night.

The game will be played Jan. 7 in Frisco, Texas. Delaware won its lone FCS title in 2003, while Eastern Washington will be in its first championship game.

Georgia Southern trailed 10-0 at the half, going scoreless in a half for the first time since the second game of the season against Navy.

The Eagles also had a season-high five turnovers, which Delaware converted into 10 points.

Georgia Southern lost four of five fumbles, and quarterback Jaybo Shaw threw an interception.

The Eagles’ first series set the tone for the day.

After holding Delaware to a three-and-out off the opening kickoff, Georgia Southern had no trouble in moving the ball from its own 29 to the Blue Hens’ 1.

After an incomplete pass to open the drive, Georgia Southern needed only seven rushing plays to get the ball to the 1.

Among the highlights of the drive were a 15-yard run by J.J. Wilcox, a 22-yard scamper by Darreion Robinson and a 19-yard run by Robinson.

It conjured up memories of the Eagles’ second-round playoff win over William & Mary, when they stung the Tribe for 423 yards.

Poised to score, Georgia Southern quarterback Jaybo Shaw fumbled, and Delaware recovered with defensive end Chris Morales picking up the ball and running it out to the 18-yard line, where he was tackled by Brent Russell.

Russell, the Eagles’ All-American sophomore nose tackle, was in the game as a blocking back in the goal-line offense.

“They fumbled the exchange,” Monken said of Shaw and center Brandavious Mann. “They said the ball was wet. That’s no excuse.

“You’ve got to get the snap. You have the right to a dry ball. They could have asked for one.”

On its third possession, Delaware took a lead that it would not relinquish.

Beginning in the first quarter, the Blue Hens drove 85 yards on 16 plays and ate up seven minutes, 42 seconds, with Devlin passing 6 yards to Mark Schenauer for the score.

It was Schenauer’s fourth touchdown catch of the season, all of them coming in his team’s three playoff games.

Delaware upped the lead to 10-0 with 2:10 remaining in the half on Mike Perry’s 21-yard field goal.

Desperately needing something good to happen, the Eagles got a 52-yard kickoff return by Laron Scott to put the ball on the Delaware 38.

Three running plays put the ball on the 18, where it was third-and-2. Eyeing a possible tying touchdown or a field goal going into the half, Wilcox fumbled at the 7 with 32 seconds on the clock.

“I told them at the half not to panic,” Monken said. “We had been in this situation before. We just need to come out and make something positive happen to start the second half.”

It didn’t happen.

Georgia Southern got the ball to start the second half and drove to the Blue Hens’ 30, and on third down Shaw was sacked by Worrilow and fumbled.

Delaware took over at its own 37 and scored on eight plays, a 24-yard pass from Devlin to Phillip Thaxton accounting for the touchdown.

Georgia Southern responded by going 64 yards to get to within seven on Brown’s score, but Delaware answered with a 60-yard drive that took only three plays.