NEWARK, Del - Delaware advanced to the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision title game by following the most elementary of rules – winning the turnover battle.
The Blue Hens caused five turnovers and committed none as they defeated visiting Georgia Southern, 27-10, in Saturday's FCS semifinal at Delaware Stadium.
Delaware (12-2) will meet Eastern Washington in the Jan. 7 championship at Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, Texas.
Eastern Washington followed the same path to the finals, forcing six turnovers in Friday's 41-31 semifinal win over Villanova.
"Getting turnovers was something that we really focused on," said Delaware head coach K.C. Keeler, who will appear in his eighth championship as a head coach, five at Rowan and now three with the Blue Hens, having won in 2003 and lost in the 2007 final. "We thought we would get some chances."
Coming into the game, Georgia Southern (10-5) had fumbled the ball 40 times and lost it 18.
Against Delaware the Eagles lost four of their five fumbles and also threw an interception.
The turnover that turned the game around came on Georgia Southern's first possession when quarterback Jaybo Shaw fumbled the snap on 3d-and-goal from the Delaware 1-yard line.
Blue Hens defensive end Chris Morales not only recovered the ball, but he returned it 18 yards.
"Getting that ball was huge," said Morales, who had three tackles, a sack and two fumble recoveries. "We knew that we needed to stop them at the 1-yard line because we didn't want to fall behind and it was a really big play for us."
The Blue Hens went three-and-out on their first two possessions. On their third possession, they took a 7-0 lead when Pat Devlin found junior receiver Mark Schenauer in the back of the end zone for a 6-yard scoring pass. It capped a 16-play, 85-yard drive early in the second quarter and made the score 7-0.
It continued an amazing playoff run for Schenauer, a former walk-on from South Jersey's Absegami High, who never caught a touchdown pass at Delaware before this postseason. Since then he has caught one in each of Delaware's three playoff wins.
"I know my role and it is a possession receiver and when they throw it to me, catch it," Schenauer said.
Delaware preserved a 10-0 lead late in the first half when linebacker Paul Worrilow, who had 12 tackles, forced a fumble that was recovered by free safety Darryl Jones on the Blue Hens' 7-yard line.
Delaware had a conservative attack because it wanted to keep the triple option of Georgia Southern off the field.
Blue Hens freshman running back Andrew Pierce, of South Jersey's Cumberland High, rushed for 187 yards on 26 carries.
Quarterback Pat Devlin, of Downingtown East and formerly of Penn State, completed 14 of 20 passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns.
Strong safety Anthony Bratton led the Blue Hens with 14 tackles.
Devlin's second touchdown pass, covering 24 yards to Phillip Thaxton, extended the Blue Hens' lead to 17-3 late in the third quarter.
Georgia Southern scored on its next possession on a 6-yard run by Robert Brown but Delaware iced the game with a 7-yard touchdown run by David Hayes for a 24-10 lead midway through the fourth quarter.
Everything came back to the turnovers.
"Turnovers are going to be big in any game," Georgia Southern coach Jeff Monken said. "When you do that against a good football team, you don't have much of a chance."