Furman, Montana to meet for title

Posted: Sunday, December 16, 2001

STATESBORO, Ga. -- Eric Emerson scored on a 1-yard run with 8:24 left as Furman beat two-time defending champion Georgia Southern 24-17 on Saturday in the Division I-AA semifinals.

The loss snapped a 39-game home winning streak for Georgia Southern (12-2), a Division I-AA record. It also was the Eagles' first loss in 28 playoff games at Paulson Stadium.

Furman (12-2) advanced to the championship game Friday in Chattanooga, Tenn., against top-ranked Montana, a 38-0 winner over Northern Iowa.

''We came out in the second half and probably played about as good as you can play,'' Furman coach Bobby Johnson said. ''And that's what you've got to do to win here at Georgia Southern.''

Georgia Southern coach Paul Johnson, hired by Navy on Monday, coached the Eagles for the final time.

''They'll be fine at Georgia Southern. They've got good players,'' Paul Johnson said. ''Give Furman credit. They did what they had to do. Nothing went right for us in the second half.''

Georgia Southern, seeking its seventh national title since returning to football in 1982, had a 17-7 halftime lead. But two fumbles by the Eagles to open the second half helped Furman rally. Justin Wright, a reserve center, fumbled the second-half kickoff and Furman recovered at the Georgia Southern 18, setting up Danny Marshall's 19-yard field goal.

On the first play of the Eagles' next possession, Zzream Walden lost a fumble at the Furman 21. Billy Napier threw a tying TD pass to Bear Rinehart on the first play after the turnover.

''You've got to get some help sometimes, and we got it with those fumbles,'' Bobby Johnson said. ''Those were big. Real big. They had all the momentum before that.''

On the winning drive, Hindley Brigham ran eight times for 37 yards to set up Emerson's score.

Georgia Southern's Adrian Peterson, who finished his career with 41 100-yard rushing games, was held to 68 yards on 18 carries.

The Paladins are seeking their second Division I-AA title. They won the 1988 championship, beating Georgia Southern 17-12 in Pocatello, Idaho.

Montana 38, Northern Iowa 0

At Missoula, Mont., Yohance Humphery ran for 142 yards and two touchdowns as Montana advanced to its second straight title game.

Quarterback John Edwards added 111 yards rushing and two more scores for the Grizzlies (14-1).

Edwards, who passed for 270 yards in the first half of Montana's 49-24 quarterfinal victory over Sam Houston State, ran for 94 yards and two touchdowns in the first quarter.

Montana led 31-0 at halftime after a 14-yard scoring run by T.J. Oelkers and an 8-yard run by Humphery.

Northern Iowa finished the season 11-3.

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