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'Koo'l under pressure
Eagle freshman PK sends GSU to win
092813 GSU FOOTBALL 02
Georgia Southern kicker Younghoe Koo (9) celebrates with place holder Matt Dobson after hitting a game-winning 26-yard field goal with 1:56 left to play against UTC at Paulson Stadium Saturday. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

    On a fourth quarter drive, Jerick McKinnon passed Georgia Southern legend Tracy Ham for the seventh-most career rushing yards in program history.
    The drive belonged completely to McKinnon, as he carried the ball on 10 of the drive’s 14 plays for 69 yards to set up a game-winning 26-yard field goal by Younghoe Koo as the Eagles held off Chattanooga 23-21 Saturday at Paulson Stadium.
    “Everybody knows what Tracy Ham is about,” McKinnon said about passing the GSU great in the record books. “He’s a great athlete, a great player and a great father. He comes around and talks to us every now and again, and passing him is an honor. It means a lot when you get a chance to think about it and it sinks in. It’s a blessing. First and foremost, it’s about my teammates. Without them, none of that, not one yard is possible.”
    Koo’s field goal was his third of the game. The thought of a game-winner was the farthest thing from his mind — in the moment.
    “Definitely I’ve thought about it, but it wasn’t the top thing that was on my head,” said Koo, a true freshman. “I just tried to go out there and do what I practiced.”
    McKinnon (25 carries, 172 yards) had runs of 15, 10 and 22 yards on the final scoring drive, but it was nearly for naught, as an errant pitch hit the ground on 3rd-and-3 from the Chattanooga 4-yard line, but it was quickly jumped on by slotback Tray Butler to save the drive and ultimately the game for the Eagles (3-1, 1-1 Southern Conference).
    “There’s a fundamentally correct way to recover a football, too,” GSU coach Jeff Monken said. “We want to do that when we’re on defense or on a kickoff, not when we’re on offense, but sometimes it happens.”
    The Mocs (2-2, 0-1) called timeout before Koo’s kick split the uprights from the UTC 9.
    Chattanooga got the ball back with 1 minute, 48 seconds remaining, and the drive was kept alive on 4th-and-14 only by a pass interference call that went against GSU cornerback Lavelle Westbrooks.
    Two plays later, the Eagles defense blitzed on 3rd-and-13. Linebacker Kyle Oehlbeck wrapped up UTC quarterback Jacob Huesman, forcing a pass which was picked off by lineman Josh Gebhardt to seal the victory.
    “Oh man, it was awesome,” Oehlbeck said about the play. “(Linebacker) Edwin Jackson looked at me and said, ‘Big players make big plays in big games.”
    Huesman passed for only 92 yards on 9 of 19 passing, and his fourth-quarter interception was the game’s only turnover, but he ran for 148 yards on 14 carries.
    “That Jacob Huesman is some kind of player,” Monken said. “Every coach in America would love to have that kid on a football team.”
    With the Mocs leading 21-20, Huesman nearly gave Chattanooga some breathing room when he found Tommy Hudson on a 40-yard bomb in the end zone in the fourth quarter, but the score was erased when UTC was flagged for an ineligible receiver downfield.
    Huesman put the Mocs ahead in the third quarter when he hit running back Keon Williams in the flat with a pass that Williams took 57 yards for a score and a 21-17 lead.
    Koo kicked a 40 yarder early in the fourth.
    The Eagles scored on their first three first-half possessions, keeping it on the ground on every play with the exception of an errant option pitch that nearly went for a fumble, but was ruled an incomplete pass.
    After the Mocs went three-and-out on the game’s opening drive, McKinnon engineered a quick, six-play drive that featured three runs by starting fullback William Banks for a combined 23 yards.
    McKinnon punched it in from a yard out for the Eagles’ first score.
    Banks, starting in place of injured Dominique Swope, ran for 86 of GSU’s 376 rushing yards.
    “We may have been a little more physical than they were tonight,” Banks said.
    Huesman answered quickly, scoring on a 51-yard, third-down scramble.
    The Eagles retook the lead when, on 3rd-and-goal from the 10, freshman receiver Montay Crockett took a reverse to the end zone for a 14-7 GSU lead.
    On a drive kept alive by another 10-yard reverse to Crockett, this time on 4th-and-3, Koo kicked a 32-yard field goal to give the Eagles a 10-point lead.
    Williams cut the GSU lead to 17-14 with a 4-yard run 3:38 before halftime on a drive set up by the Eagles’ only punt of the first half.
    NOTES: Fullback Dominique Swope underwent shoulder surgery on Friday and will miss the rest of the 2013 season. Monken said he was eligible to receive a red shirt for this season. … McKinnon’s career rushing total now stands at 3,264 yards. Monken joked that it would take “about four more seasons” to catch Ham’s program-record 5,757 passing yards. … Koo’s three field goals marked the first time a GSU kicker made three field goals in a game since Adrian Mora did it in the quarterfinals of the 2010 playoffs at Wofford. … The Eagles improved to 23-4 all time against Chattanooga. … Announced attendance for Saturday’s game was 16,827.

    Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.