The Associated Press
NEWARK, Del. — When Pat Devlin left Penn State for Delaware two years ago, this is the kind of moment he envisioned. The senior threw two touchdown passes and Delaware forced five turnovers to beat Georgia Southern, 27-10, in the Football Championship Subdivision semifinals Saturday.
“It’s why I came here,” said Devlin, who completed 14 of 20 passes for 137 yards. “I came here to play in big games, I came here to play for championships. I’m just so excited that we’re able to get there.”
Delaware (12-2) advanced to the championship game, where it will face Eastern Washington on Jan. 7 in Frisco, Texas. Eastern Washington beat 2009 champion Villanova, 41-31, in the other semifinal on Friday night.
Delaware freshman Andrew Pierce ran for 186 yards on 26 carries to help the Blue Hens reach the title game for the third time since 2003.
Georgia Southern (10-5) couldn’t overcome four lost fumbles, three of which came inside the Delaware 40. ”The fumbles were big,” first-year Georgia Southern head coach Jeff Monken said. “But turnovers are going to be big, especially when you play a good team. You can’t have turnovers. “Those cost us points. When you do that against a good football team, it’s very difficult to win.”
The Eagles, who had a six-game win streak end, pulled to within 17-10 on Robert Brown’s 6-yard touchdown run with 7:37 remaining. The score came on a fourth-and-goal with Brown taking a pitch around right end. It finished off a 16-play, 64-yard drive that took 8:27 off the clock.
But the Hens answered right back, going 60 yards on just three running plays to stretch the lead to 24-10. Pierce carried the ball twice for 52 yards on the drive before David Hayes scored on a 7-yard run up the middle with 6:05 remaining. Delaware added a 20-yard field goal by Mike Perry with 3:32 remaining to account for the game’s final points.
“What a team effort to get a win like this,” Blue Hens head coach K.C. Keeler said.
Delaware used a 16-play, 85-yard drive to score the game’s first touchdown. Devlin found Mark Schenauer in the back of the end zone for a 6-yard touchdown pass with 13:29 left in the second quarter. The drive was aided by a personal foul penalty on Georgia Southern after a third-down incompletion at the Eagles’ 24.
Georgia Southern drove 71 yards to the Delaware 1 on its first possession, but Delaware defensive end Chris Morales recovered a fumble to end the drive. The Eagles also fumbled at the end of the first half after reaching the Delaware 18.
The Hens took a 10-0 lead into halftime after Perry kicked a 21-yard field with 2:06 remaining. The kick capped off a seven-play, 66-yard march.
Georgia Southern (10-5) got a 40-yard field goal from Adrian Mora on the first possession of the second half. A 53-yard run by Jerick McKinnon set up the kick.
The Hens pushed their advantage to 17-3 late in the third quarter when Phillip Thaxton scored on a 24-yard pass from Devlin. With Georgia Southern blitzing, Thaxton got an initial block after catching a screen pass and went the rest of the distance untouched.
“Getting turnovers was something that we really focused on,” said Keeler. “We thought we would have some chances. We knew that they averaged two fumbles a game and we wanted to be ready. It was a big boost for our defense to keep them out of the end zone.”
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