With the fate of bowl season on the line for both teams and desperately needing a score, Georgia Southern quarterback Kyle Vantrease dug deep and did what had to be done.
On second-and-10 from the 25 yard line in double overtime, Vantrease stepped up in the pocket and threw a frozen rope of a pass to senior receiver Ezrah Archie to give the Eagles the 51-48 victory, and extend the Eagles season by a bowl game.
Oh, and in the process, the Mountaineers were sent packing for the year. Pretty sweet.
Vantrease finished the game with 385 yards passing with three touchdowns and a pick, with no pass more important as the one to ice the win to Archie at the end. Georgia Southern cobbled together a running game with some pieces unfamiliar to Eagle fans in AJ Brown and Tyler Jordan, who combined for 73 yards and three touchdowns in the victory.
On the other side, it was a number of key App errors that led to the Mountaineers losing this game. The lack of pass defense on the final play notwithstanding, kicker Michael Hughes shanking a 30-yard attempt as time expired in regulation was particularly backbreaking, after App had driven 60 yards in just 41 seconds to put Hughes in position for the win.
The Mountaineers also had a chance to put 7 points on the board with the first possession of double OT, but couldn’t capitalize on an unnecessary roughness penalty that saw the Eagles pinned at their own 15 yard line with three downs to have to stop App. The field goal settled for by Shawn Clark and company proved to ultimately be the visiting team’s downfall.
Despite the loss, running back Nate Noel ran the ball at will against a still shaky Georgia Southern front-seven, tallying 171 yards and three scores on just 12 touches. Fellow tailback Ahmani Marshall added 91 yards and a touchdown of his own as it looked as if the Mountaineers would run away with this one — figuratively and literally — when App took a 38-31 lead to start the third quarter.
Being outgained 629-487 and losing the turnover battle 2-0 did not deter the Eagles however, as Georgia Southern looks to bowl season in a few weeks while App is stuck looking at the 2023 season for signs of hope.