BIRMINGHAM, Ala.—Two long kick returns for touchdowns by Birmingham-Southern senior David Langston helped lead the Panthers to a 28-19 season-opening football victory Saturday over the visiting LaGrange College Panthers.
A crowd 2,468 fans in Panther Stadium on the BSC campus witnessed the college’s third opening day win since the program was reinstated four years ago, as well as the premiere performance of the BSC Panther Pride Marching Band.
But it was the elusive Langston who provided the day’s most excitement as BSC’s offense sputtered most of the first half.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Panthers appeared to get on the scoreboard first when Langston, a wide receiver and return specialist from Holt, Fla., returned a punt 85 yards for a touchdown. However, a block in the back nullified Langston’s long jaunt.
Langston, who missed the last three games of the 2009 season due to injury, would not be denied on his next punt return. With 4:54 to go before the half, Langston scooped up a LaGrange punt on the bounce, eluded a defender, and raced untouched 86 yards down the right sideline for the score. Cody Hutchings kick was good and BSC led 7-0.
Langston’s punt return was the longest in BSC history, topping his previous record long return of 68 yards against Sewanee last season. He now has three punt returns for touchdowns in his BSC career.
Langston’s return would be the only scoring in the first half as the BSC Panthers took the 7-0 lead into the locker room.
Langston would get the second half started with a bang, returning the opening kickoff a school-record 89 yards for his second touchdown of the day. Hutchings kick was again good and Birmingham-Southern was up 14-0. It was Langton’s second kickoff return for a touchdown in his four seasons at BSC.
Langston’s heroics jump-started the BSC offense. Following a LaGrange punt, the Panthers quickly found the end zone again, with sophomore tailback Shawn Morris scoring on a one-yard run. Hutchings’ kick made it 21-0 Birmingham-Southern.
LaGrange answered on its very next drive however with senior quarterback Drew Carter hitting Jordan Magaw on a 20-yard touchdown strike to make the score 21-6. The point after touchdown as no good.
BSC sophomore wide receiver John Lawroski appeared to put Birmingham-Southern up by three scores just moments later. The sophomore wide receiver took a Joe Thigpen pass 60 yards, before fumbling on the one-yard line. The ball rolled out of the end zone for a touchback and LaGrange took over on its own 20.
From there, LaGrange quickly marched 80 yards, capped by a seven-yard touchdown run by senior running back Andrecus Lindley. Josh Stripling’s point after touchdown cut Birmingham-Southern’s lead to 21-13 with 3:38 to go in the third quarter.
BSC’s Lawroski fumbled the ensuing kickoff and LaGrange took over on the Birmingham-Southern 35. It didn’t take long for the LaGrange Panthers to find the end zone, with Lindley taking it in again, this time from the four for his second rushing touchdown of the afternoon. LaGrange’s try for two failed and Birmingham-Southern clung to a 21-19 lead with 2:14 to go in the third.
After both teams exchanged punts, Birmingham-Southern got on the board a final time. Morris scored his second rushing touchdown of the afternoon, this time from the two-yard line to put the Panthers up 28-19.
Junior linebacker Dustin Massey sealed the BSC victory with 2:20 to go when he intercepted a Drew Carter pass at the BSC 10 and returned it 36 yards to the 46. From there, the Panthers ran out the clock for the win.
Birmingham-Southern was led through the air by Thigpen, who hit on seven of 10 passes for 108 years and one interception. Senior tailback Walter Arrington led all rushers with 137 yards on 22 carries.
LaGrange was led in rushing by Aaron Duncan who had 34 yards on 11 carries. Carter was 21-36 through the air for 265 yards and one touchdown.
Birmingham-Southern finished the afternoon with 373 yards total offense, while LaGrange tallied 359.
BSC is next in action Saturday, Sept. 11, at Faulkner University in Montgomery. Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. in Crampton Bowl.