Charleston Southern forced three turnovers and rushed for 170 yards and two touchdowns in the second half to end its 15-game losing streak with a 23-20 win over Shorter University on Saturday afternoon at Barron Stadium.
The Bucs dominated the third quarter to seize control in a tight game at the half. CSU put together drives of 61 and 67 yards, all on the ground, to push around their Division II foe and build a 23-14 lead.
With the win, the Bucs moves to 1-3 on the season, while Shorter fall to 2-2.
The win ends CSU's 15-game losing streak, which dated back to November of 2010. It also gives the Bucs momentum and a positive to turn heading into their off week and Big South Conference play in two weeks.
"We just stopped pressing," CSU head coach Jay Mills said after the win. "We've wanted to win so bad and score so badly, we've been pressing. Nothing we have been doing wrong has been from a lack of effort. You don't just draw upon the most recent games for confidence. We're better prepared because of our past and I think there are good things to come from this win."
The Bucs were able to put together positives in all three phases of the game, forcing three turnovers and holding Shorter to a pair of field goals after the Hawks moved the ball inside the Bucs' 5-yard line.
No stop was bigger senior Cornelius Sterling's third down tackle for loss of Hawks' sophomore quarterback Eric Dodson. With CSU leading 23-17 in the final 10 minutes, Sterling engulfed Dodson in the backfield on third-and-goal from the Bucs' 2. The stop, paired with an illegal participation penalty on fourth down forced Shorter to settle for a field goal with right at seven minutes left to cut the lead to final score.
The defense allowed 173 yards on the Hawks two drives in the fourth quarter, but only six points.
"The final stand by our defense was a great fourth down stand," Mills added. "They have been getting better with each game and today they put us in a position to win."
CSU's special teams and offense put things together, especially in the second half, to help the Bucs look like a complete team for the first time since the first half of their opener. The Bucs recovered a fumble on a muffed punt to set up their first touchdown, a 46-yard strike from Malcolm Dixon to Chase Jones early in the second quarter.
The special teams also got a punt return for a touchdown out of senior cornerback Charles James, but the play was called back on a penalty for continuing to participate after losing your helmet.
Charleston Southern turned to a new offensive wrinkle to jumpstart its option offense. Running back Trey Dorsey took as many as two dozen snaps to give CSU four running backs in its option. The Bucs chewed up the game clock and yards in protecting their lead late, including the final 6:58 off the game clock to keep the ball away from the Hawks.
The game didn't start the way CSU wanted. Following a pair of punts to start the game, Shorter put together a 13-play, 73 yard drive to take a 7-0 lead on a two year run by Bradley Moon. The drive took almost eight minutes off the clock as CSU started the game with a pair of three-and-outs.
Punter Cameron Mitchell kept the Hawks' option attack backed up with punts of 51 and 52 yards in the quarter. Shorter kept the football for 19:15 of the first half and took a 14-10 lead into the locker room.
Dorsey led the way for the Bucs, carrying 16 times for 52 yards. Gabe Johnson added seven carries for 35 yards. The Bucs had runs of 23, 24, 13 (twice), and 10 during the third quarter, when they rushed 15 times for 148 yards.
CSU completed only two passes. Dixon completed 2-of-9 for 60 yards and the touchdown to Jones.
Dodson led the Hawks with 136 yards on 19 carried, while Moon added 98 yards on 12 touches. Both had runs of over 60 yards, but neither was or a touchdown.
Dodson was 5-of-7 passing for 130 yards and a touchdown.
Linebacker Aaron Brown led the middle of the CSU defense with seven tackles. Defensive tackle added six stops and a tackle for loss.
Charleston Southern opens Big South Conference play on Oct. 6 against Stony Brook University. Kickoff is at 6 p.m. in Stony Brook, N.Y.