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September 17, 2011

Birmingham-Southern football travels to Florida to battle Ave Marie University

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.—The Birmingham-Southern College Panthers travel to Naples, Fla., Saturday, Sept. 17, to battle the Ave Maria University Gyrenes in a non-conference football game.  Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. central time at Palmetto Ridge High School.

This will be the first-ever home football game for Ave Maria, which is in its inaugural season of football.  The Gyrenes, who compete in at the NAIA level and in The Sun Conference, are 0-1 on the season after dropping their debut football game last weekend to Faulkner University in Montgomery's Crampton Bowl 41-19.

Birmingham-Southern is 2-0 on the young season after a thrilling double-overtime win over Huntingdon College last Saturday in the Wesley Cup game in Panther Stadium on the BSC campus.

"We don't know a lot about Ave Maria since this is their first season of football," said BSC Head Coach Eddie Garfinkle.  "We were in the same situation just a few years ago here at Birmingham-Southern, so what we do know is that they will be hungry and the team and the fans will be excited about the first-ever home game.

"We worked hard this week to have our team mentally prepared for such a long road trip and to avoid any letdown following an emotional and hard-fought win over Huntingdon.  We will have to play well and play mistake free if we expect to come home with a win."

The Panthers overcame a 21-2 deficit in the fourth quarter against Huntingdon last Saturday, tying the game on the last play of regulation and winning it in the second overtime on a nine-year run by junior tailback Shawn Morris of Pensacola, Fla.

Offensively, Birmingham-Southern is averaging 32 points and 473 yards a contest in its wins over LaGrange and Huntingdon this season.  The Panthers are led by junior quarterback Jimmy Stainback of Roswell, Ga., who was named the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference Offensive Player-of-the-Week for his efforts against Huntingdon.  Stainback passed for 233 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another 116 yards in the game.  Morris added 113 yards rushing last weekend and now has 300 yards on 33 carries and four touchdowns in two games.

Defensively, junior defensive back Andrew Shannon of Trussville tallied a school-record 19 tackles against Huntingdon and was named the SCAC Defensive Player-of-the-Week and to the D3Football.com National Team of the Week.  He also had two tackles-for-loss, a forced fumble, and a pass break-up.  Shannon also has two interceptions on the season, including one returned for a score.  Senior defensive end Bryan Jackson of Houston, Texas, has 11 total tackles this season, including two sacks.

Freshman punter Cameron Haynes of Pelham is averaging 38 yards a kick for the Panthers.

Ave Maria is coached by former Penn State wide receiver Barry Fagan.  Playing with a young, freshman-laden squad, the Gyrenes notched 15 first downs and 203 yards total offense in their inaugural football game, led by freshman running back Rashad Kelley's 82 yards on the ground and freshman quarterback Tim Morley's 85 years through the air.

Defensively, the Gyrenes held Faulkner to only 76 yards rushing, but gave up 426 through the air.  Freshman linebacker Kurt Joseph led Ave Maria with five tackles.

Fans of the Panthers can follow the contest with Ave Maria on livestream video at www.amuathletics.com/multimedia/video.

The Panthers will begin Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference play Saturday, Sept. 24, at Sewanee.

For the first time since football returned to BSC in 2007 after a 68-year hiatus, the Panthers are eligible to compete for the SCAC championship and a berth in the NCAA Division III playoffs.