SHERMAN, Texas – The Birmingham-Southern football team capitalized on five fumbles by Austin College to notch a 35-28 come-from-behind victory, Saturday, at Jerry Apple Stadium. Both teams now stand even at 3-3 on the season as the Panthers defeated the ‘Roos for the first time in program history.
BSC received the kickoff and scored first when junior wide receiver #David Langston# took a short pass from junior quarterback #Joe Thigpen# and broke a tackle before racing down the sideline for a 59-yard score just 1:15 into the game. Freshman #Cody Hutchings#’ kick was good to put BSC up 7-0 at the 13:45 mark of the first quarter.
The ‘Roos answered quickly when Andy Braly found Greg Harrell for a 59 yard touchdown toss on the first play from scrimmage for Austin College to make it 7-7 with 13:30 left in the first quarter.
Braly would again connect with Harrell with 2:39 left in the first, this time on a 57-yard bomb to cap off a three-play, 92-yard drive to make it 14-7. The ’Roos would build on that lead early in the second quarter when Braly would throw his third touchdown pass of the half, this time to Brogan Funderburg on a two-yard play to make it 21-7 with just over 11 minutes left in the half.
The ’Roos were looking to build on that lead on their next possession, driving down to the BSC 30-yard line, but the Panthers forced a fumble by Funderburg and sophomore defensive back #Andrew Shannon# scooped it up and returned it 70 yards for the touchdown to make it a 21-14 game. After forcing the Panthers to turn the ball over on downs just before the half, the ’Roos gave it right back with a fumble in their own territory, and with three seconds before the break, Thigpen found senior wide receiver #Dion Watts# for a 25-yard touchdown pass to tie things up going into halftime.
Austin College got the lead back in a hurry to open the second half, driving 59 yards in eight plays with Braly scoring on a quarterback keeper from 16 yards out to make it 28-21 with 10:12 left in the third, but later in the quarter, junior wide receiver #Chris Mauck# would block an Austin College punt, and sophomore wide receiver #Eric Nordgren# would return it 18 yards for the score to once again knot things up.
In the fourth quarter and with BSC in possession, the ’Roos looked to be on the verge of swinging momentum back in their direction when Thigpen appeared to be caught behind the line of scrimmage for a sack, but the quarterback escaped the grasp of two Austin College defenders and scrambled nine yards for a first down, and 15 more yards were tacked on when the ’Roos were called for a personal foul.
The Panthers took advantage of the defensive lapse in the next two plays, with freshman running back #Shawn Morris# rushing nine yards down to the Austin College 11-yard line, and Thigpen taking a quarterback keeper the rest of the way for the go-ahead touchdown.
On the final chance for Austin College, the ’Roos marched 57 yards in 15 plays, but on the drive’s 16th play, a 4th-and-10 pass into the endzone intended for Evan Coachman was broken up by Shannon, allowing the Panthers to hang on for the 35-28 come-from-behind victory.
Thigpen completed 14-of-28 passes for 235 yards and two scores, and rushed 19 times for 59 yards and a score, and Langston finished with 140 yards on six catches. Senior linebacker #Victor Allen# had nine tackles and junior defensive end #Jeremy Jones# added eight, and the two combined for a sack to lead BSC defensively. Hutchings was on the mark for all four of the Panthers' extra points.
Braly completed 7-of-17 passes for 167 yards and three touchdowns and also rushed 18 times for 103 yards and a score to lead the ’Roos, while Harrell finished with three catches for 123 yards and two touchdowns. Ryan Simons carried the ball 18 times for 79 yards and Nick Zitaglio led the ’Roos defensively with 11 tackles, including 3.5 for loss and a sack.
Austin College recorded 26 first downs with 420 (253 rushing, 167 passing) total offensive yards and a 36:47 time of possession, while BSC had only 16 first downs, 343 (108 rushing, 235 passing) total yards, and a 23:13 time of possession. Each team was also called for seven penalties, with BSC being pushed back 90 yards and AC 54 yards. The difference-maker in the game were fumbles, though, with the ‘Roos losing six balls and the Panthers recovering five of those; BSC only fumbled once.
BSC is on the road again next weekend, traveling to face Sewanee, Saturday, Oct. 24, at 1:30 p.m. in Sewanee, Tenn.