By Jim O'Hara
Photography by Cecil Copeland
Rome -- The Shorter Hawks were unable to overcome their own mistakes when visiting Charleston Southern made the most of Shorter's miscues and mental lapses to hand the Hawks a 23-20 defeat Saturday afternoon at Barron Stadium on Homecoming day.
The loss evens Shorter's overall record to 2-2 heading into Shorter's first NCAA Division II Gulf South Conference next Saturday at North Alabama, while the win marks the end of the NCAA Division I FCS Buccaneers' 15-game losing streak which was the longest in the nation for a Division I program.
"It's real disappointing. We hurt ourselves so many times," Shorter head coach Phil Jones said after the game, one that saw the Hawks roll up nearly 450 yards in total offense but saw two fumbles result in Southern scores and 138 yards in penalties hamper their point production."
"Ball security, penalties, other issues – all those things are my fault," said Jones. "We have to learn to overcome things like that. We're a better football team than what we showed today."
The Hawks grabbed the early lead on their second possession of the game when they took the ball 73 yards on 13 plays, the final one resulting in a 2-yard touchdown run by Bradley Moon. Troy Postell added the first of two extra points on the day.
But the Bucs made the most of two Shorter turnovers in the second quarter. After SU coughed up the ball at its own 45, Southern needed just three plays to tie the game in the opening minutes of the second period when Malcolm Dixon connected with Chase Jones, with Mark Deboy added the extra point.
The second Shorter miscue came with just over eight minutes left in the opening half when the Bucs recovered a muffed punt at the Shorter 16 and from there Deboy split the uprights for a 31-yard field goal to give the visitors a 10-7 advantage.
The Hawks, however, regrouped and with 1:59 left until halftime put together a 4-play, 61-yard scoring drive that culminated when quarterback Eric Dodson went deep to hit Brandon Morten with a 49-yard scoring strike that put Shorter back into the lead. Postell again was good with the PAT.
Shorter had one more opportunity to in the waning seconds of the first half when the Hawks moved the ball 53 yards to the Southern 23 but came away empty when the Bucs blocked a 40-yard FG try by Postell.
The shift in momentum at the end of the first half carried over for Southern at the start of the second half when Southern, on its first possession of the third quarter, marched 67 yards down the field on just six plays to take the lead when Dixon found pay dirt from 12 yards out.
With 2:45 left in the period, Southern took the lead for good, once again moving the ball down the field on an 8-play, 61-yard scoring march with Mike Davis 11 yard touchdown run.
Shorter, however, responded on its ensuing possession, moving the ball 89 yards down to the Southern 7 where the Hawks settled for a 24-yard field goal by Postell, who clanked the ball off the left post and through the uprights.
After Shorter's defense forced a three-and-out, the Hawks again turned in a long drive, one that started at their own 4-yard line and worked its way down to the Bucs' 4, but on a fourth and goal situation with SU opting to go for the go-ahead touchdown, the Hawks were flagged for an illegal substitution that backed them up five yards. The Hawks had to settle for a 26-yard field goal by Postell that pulled Shorter to within three with 6:53 left to play, but Southern made sure SU would not get another chance as the Bucs held on to the ball as time expired.
The Hawks ended the game rolling up 447 total yards, 317 of those coming on the ground where Dodson led Shorter with 136 yards on 19 carries and Moon added 98 more yards on 12 totes. Dodson also threw for 130 yards, completing five of seven passes with one interception, and the TD.
Laynce Sanders paced Shorter's defense, which held Southern to 245 yards, recording eight total tackles and had 2.5 tackles for loss including a sack.