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Eagles put in some overtime
GSU survives scare against UTC after three OTs
McKinnon Flex
Georgia Southern quarterback Jerick McKinnon (1) celebrates with teammates after his 10 yard touchdown run in the first quarter of Saturday's game in Chattanooga. The Eagles were pushed to the limit, but prevailed in triple-overtime. - photo by PAUL BARKLEY/Special to the Herald


Jacob Huesman ran all over the Georgia Southern Eagles all day long.

When he needed two yards to extend the drive during the third overtime, he didn’t get them.

J.J. Wilcox and Darius Eubanks converged on Huesman in the backfield and got the stop on 4th-and-2, and the Eagles held on for a thrilling, 39-31 win Saturday over the Chattanooga Mocs at Finley Stadium.

Huesman, a redshirt freshman, recorded career highs in rushing yards (170) and rushing touchdowns (2).

"He’s going to be an All-American," Wilcox said about Huesman. "He’s smart with the ball, he runs hard, he can throw it. And he’s a freshman. He’s going to be a heck of a player."

The Eagles (7-1, 6-1 Southern Conference) scored on the first possession of the third overtime, grinding it out on a 10-play, 25-yard drive that ended when quarterback Jerick McKinnon scored from one yard out. The Eagles converted two third downs and a fourth down on the drive.

McKinnon punched in the two-point conversion for the final margin.

Neither team scored in the second overtime, which saw UTC’s Nick Pollard miss a 41-yard field goal attempt.

The Eagles got the ball, but McKinnon fumbled on the first play, sending the game to overtime number three.

Both teams lost two fumbles in the game — GSU freshman Seon Jones, in his first-career appearance lost one in the third quarter that led to a UTC score — and the Mocs entered the game with two fumbles on the season.

"We felt like if we didn’t turn the ball over — which we did too many times to win the game, even though we still did – we just wanted to hang onto the football and get ourselves into a position to win the football game," GSU coach Jeff Monken said.

The teams traded touchdowns in the first overtime, with Darreion Robinson making two defenders miss after taking an option pitch. He ran it 20 yards for the score.

"They threw a punch, we threw a punch, and I just can’t comment enough about how good of a team they were," said McKinnon.

Chattanooga (4-4, 3-2) answered with an eight-yard touchdown pass from Huesman to tight end Faysal Shafaat.

Georgia Southern had a chance to win it in regulation, but Alex Hanks missed a 49-yard field goal attempt that had the distance but sailed wide right as time ran out in the fourth quarter.

The Eagles fumbled and punted twice in an anemic third quarter in which they recorded only 43 total yards and, leading 21-10 at the half, saw third quarter rushing touchdowns out of Huesman and J.J. Jackson that allowed the Mocs to take a 24-21 lead.

Hanks tied the game in the fourth quarter on a wobbly, 24-yard field goal on a drive that stalled in GSU territory. Luke Cherry punted early in the fourth, but Chattanooga’s Sema’je Kendall muffed the kick, the ball hit the ground, and Jake Banta recovered, giving the Eagles new life and setting up the Hanks kick.

The Eagles had most of the momentum in the first half.

Huesman made the Eagles pay with his feet on a 75-yard drive that consisted of only four runs by the freshman, including a two-yard touchdown, but other than that, it was all GSU.

The Eagles opened the scoring with a 29-yard run by Robinson who took an option pitch to the right, but with nowhere to go, reversed the field and scored in the left corner.

The Mocs fumbled a kickoff for the second time in a row, and this time GSU recovered when Zach York pounced on it on the UTC 29.

It took only three plays for McKinnon to score from 12 yards out, breaking two tackles, spinning in a full circle and keeping his balance on the way.

"We’ve got some guys who can make some plays," Monken said, "and they made some plays tonight.

Huesman’s touchdown cut the GSU lead to 14-7, but the second quarter saw McKinnon score his second rushing touchdown, this time from 18 yards out.

Pollard kicked a 39-yard field goal to cut the score to 21-10, and GSU’s Hanks missed from 24 as the half ended, after a drive led by backup quarterback Ezayi Youyoute.

Youyoute and McKinnon alternated snaps at quarterback throughout the second half.

The Eagles return to Paulson Stadium Saturday against Appalachian State. A win would guarantee the Eagles an outright SoCon championship and the league’s automatic bid to the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.

The Chattanooga victory gave GSU its seventh win on the season, making the Eagles playoff eligible.


Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-4908.