Late Campbell TD not enough in season-opening loss

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STATESBORO, GA. — Georgia Southern rallied from a 14-point deficit, then withstood a late two-point conversion attempt to defeat Campbell 27-26 Saturday at Paulson Stadium.

The Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) member Camels led 20-6 early in the third quarter before the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) Eagles scored three unanswered touchdowns and survived a late CU rally.

Hajj-Malik Williams connected with Jalen Kelsey on a 20-yard scoring pass with 14 seconds remaining to bring the Camels within 27-26.  Head coach Mike Minter elected to go for the lead, but Williams’ pass to tight end Julian Hill on the ensuing two-point conversion was incomplete.

Williams threw for 237 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing for 73 yards and another score. A sophomore from Atlanta, Williams completed 17 of 27 passes while averaging 6.6 yards on 11 rushing attempts.

Kelsey finished with six receptions for 66 yards, including the late TD and Camels wideout Jai Williams hauled in four catches for 72 yards and another score.

Georgia Southern quarterback Shai Werts ran for 155 yards and completed 7 of 13 passes as the Eagles escaped Campbell’s upset bid.

Campbell outgained Georgia Southern 369-346, including a 237-62 edge in the air.  CU finished 3 of 3 in red zone opportunities against the Eagles, who extended their home win streak against non-conference opponents to 25 games.

Alex Santiago forced a fumble on the second half kickoff and Josh McNeely recovered to give the Camels a first down on the GSU 26.  Four plays later, Williams ran in from eight yards and Robert Brown’s PAT extended Campbell’s lead to 20-6.

Werts had runs of 32 and 20 yards in a 75-yard drive he capped by finding D.J. Butler for a 1-yard TD catch on fourth down to cap a 10-play drive that cut the Camels lead to 20-13 with 7:32 remaining in the third quarter. 

A mishandled punt snap gave Georgia Southern first-and-goal at the Campbell 9 and J.D. King ran in from 4 yards out with 13:50 remaining. Alex Raynor’s PAT tied the game at 20.

Werts capped a 6-play, 95-yard drive with a 41-yard scamper to give the Eagles their first lead (27-20) with 6:42 left.

The Camels led 13-6 at the break after outgaining Georgia Southern 211-141 in the opening half. Williams completed 8 of 11 passes for 133 yards.  CU held the Eagles option rushing attack to just 89 first-half yards.

Campbell drove 75 yards after the opening kickoff to take an early 7-0 lead. After Williams hooked up with tight end Julian Hill for a 30-yard gain to the GSU 10, Bryant Barr covered the final 10 yards between the tackles.  Brown’s PAT put the Camels ahead just 1:57 into the game.

Saturday’s contest was the fifth all-time for the Camels against an FBS member 

Jonathan Jones led the Camels with nine tackles, including two for loss, while Darion Slade, Ray Miller and Tywun Rivens made seven stops apiece.

Campbell returns to action Friday (Sept. 18) in a 7:00 p.m. kickoff at Coastal Carolina.

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