By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Elon beats Eagles 36-33 in double overtime
GSU Elon 2
Georgia Southern quarterback Jayson Foster dives into the end zone during Saturday’s game at Rhodes Stadium in Elon, N.C. The Eagles lost their second overtime game of the year, falling 36-33 in double OT to the Elon. - photo by PETER SCHUMACHER/Burlington Times-News
    ELON, N.C. — Crestfallen and exhausted, Georgia Southern searched for answers to what went wrong Saturday afternoon at Rhodes Stadium.
    The Eagles knew this was a game they had in their grasp, but in the end Andrew Wilcox’s career-long 49-yard field goal in the second overtime stood as the game winner in Elon’s 36-33 victory — the Phoenix’s first ever over Georgia Southern.
    After Wilcox’s kick, the 21st-ranked Eagles had a chance to tie the game, but Jesse Hartley’s 39-yard attempt was short, igniting an Elon celebration while Eagles kneeled on the field in disbelief. Last week, Hartley nailed a 54-yarder on the final play of the game to lift GSU to a win.
    “There’s not much you can say,” Eagle coach Chris Hatcher said. “We just didn’t execute very well. That’s my fault.”
    The loss put a damper on Georgia Southern’s playoff and SoCon title hopes as the Eagles fell to 4-2 on the year and 1-2 in Southern Conference play. Elon improved to 4-2 and 2-1.
    “All you can do is hope for the best, win out the rest of the games and maybe some good things will happen to us,” defensive end Larry Beard said.
    In the first overtime, Hartley nailed a 41-yard field goal to put the Eagles up 33-30, and GSU thought it had won the game when Wilcox’s 39-yard attempt sailed wide left. Georgia Southern players stormed the field in celebration, but an offsides call against the Eagles gave Wilcox a second chance. He nailed the 34-yard try to force double overtime.
    “The game was over, but (officials) threw a flag,” senior Chris Covington said. “I’m not saying we were offsides, they just threw a flag.”
    Offensively, the Eagles were led by senior quarterback Jayson Foster, who rushed for a game-high 112 yards and one score on 30 carries. He also threw for 55 yards on a 5 of 14 clip. Senior Lamar Lewis added 103 rushing yards and one touchdown on nine totes.
    Georgia Southern’s defense recorded a season-high seven sacks and set a new school record by holding the Phoenix to -19 rushing yards. Elon’s freshman quarterback Scott Riddle was 26-for-48 with three touchdowns and two interceptions for 303 yards. He’s thrown for more than 300 yards in five straight games.
    “It was a tough loss today, especially because we played good enough to win and we made the plays to win,” Covington said. “Elon’s guys played hard. I’m not taking that away from them, but they shouldn’t have been on the field with us.”
    Running back Mike Hamilton put the Eagles on top 30-23 with 8:56 left in regulation with a six-yard touchdown run. GSU’s offense remained persistent on the drive despite a pair of holding calls, one which negated a 33-yard TD run by Foster.            After Hamilton’s score, Elon marched downfield and knotted the game at 30 on a 1-yard shovel pass from Riddle to Dontay Taylor with 5:33 to play.
    “It’s very disappointing,” Foster said. “We felt we could have won the game, but we didn’t go out there and produce in overtime as an offense. Elon did what they had to do to win the game and we didn’t.”
    The Phoenix added to their 20-13 halftime lead with a 41-yard field goal early in the third quarter, but the Eagles’ defense helped GSU get back in the game as Covington and cornerback Carson Hill both intercepted Riddle in the third quarter.
    Covington returned the pick 21 yards to the Elon 15, and six plays later, Foster was in the end zone on a 4-yard run up the middle. Hill’s interception led to a 22-yard Hartley field goal, which tied the game at 23 with 5:16 remaining in the third quarter.
    It was a surprisingly slow start as both high-powered offenses took a few moments to get warmed up. After punting on its first three possessions, GSU finally broke open the scoreless game when Lewis sprinted down the left sideline for a 54-yard touchdown run with 3:52 to go in the first half.
    Elon answered with a 48-yard field goal by Wilcox, and GSU countered with a 49-yard Hartley field goal to push the Eagles’ lead to 10-3. Then the Phoenix’s offense started rolling and Elon scored on its next three possessions - a 32-yard Wilcox field goal, 40-yard pass from Riddle to Bo Williamson and a 1-yard TD reception by Taylor 25 seconds before the half.
    The scoring spree put the home team up 20-10, but GSU got the ball back and set up a 29-yard Hartley field goal as time expired, cutting Elon’s halftime lead to 20-13.
    The Eagles travel to No. 5 Appalachian State next weekend.

    Alex Pellegrino can be reached at (912) 489-9413.