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Georgia Southern takes down #25 James Madison
GS Football
Derwin Burgess Jr. hauls in the game-winning touchdown in Georgia Southern's victory over James Madison on Saturday at Paulson Stadium.

STATESBORO —Georgia Southern honored their 40th year anniversary team at halftime of Saturday’s game between Georgia Southern and the No. 25 ranked JMU Dukes. Ironically those recognized probably had a tough time recognizing the offense being run. Georgia Southern rushed for only 12-yards the entire game, but threw for a school-record 578 yards as they won a thrilling back-and-forth game with the Dukes 45-38.


“I just can’t tell you how special this night is for our football team,” said Eagle head coach Clay Helton. “This is the second time in the program history we have knocked off a Top-25 ranked team in Paulson Stadium. This team has done some really neat things this year, and now we need to collectively build on this.”


The end of the game was very familiar to Eagle fans. Much like in the Coastal game Georgia Southern came down and had to settle for a field goal with less than four minutes to go to go up by six. JMU promptly marched down field and scored on a 25-yard touchdown pass from Todd Centeio to Terrance Greene with 2:28 remaining.


The Eagles had two timeouts and were able to move the ball ahead to midfield when their drive stalled. Facing fourth and 10 from the JMU 47-yard line quarterback Kyle Vantrease hit Khaleb Hood to the 40-yard line where he was initially hit. Hood was able to fight his way ahead for a couple yards and then lunged forward to the JMU 33-yard line for a first down to keep the drive alive.

Two plays later Vantrease threw a perfect pass into the end zone where Derwin Burgess Jr. dove and caught it despite JMU being called for pass interference. The eagles then lined up under center for the first time all game and Vantrease handed the ball to Jalen White for the successful two-point conversion. JMU was still able to move the ball to the Eagle 38-yard line, but Anthony Wilson picked off a Centeio pass with 24 seconds left to seal the deal.


“We work on our two-minute offense and usually I give the team only 1:29 and one timeout,” said Helton. I told the team we have 2:28 left and two timeouts which is almost too much time up there, so lets go make our plays. We just needed to go make our plays. Now some of those were special plays. I will remember Khaleb Hood fighting ahead for a first down as long as I live as well as that 360 degree catch that Derwin Burgess made for the touchdown. When it is all said and done I feel like this will be one of my favorite wins of all time.”

GSU football
Georgia Southern cornerback Tyler Bride celebrates with fans after they stormed the field following the Eagles upset over ranked James Madison at Paulson Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 15.


The 12 yards rushing was one off the school all-time low of 11 which happened back in 2009 when the “Hatch attack” was supposed to be the offense to light up the scoreboard and rewrite the record book. Hatcher quarterbacks Lee Chapple and Antonio Henton did hold many single-game, and single-season records coming into this season, but Saturday Kyle Vantrease obliterated many of those records.


Vantrease now owns virtually every single-game passing record after throwing for 578 yards and four touchdowns. Only seven games in he also owns the single-season marks for touchdown passes, yardage and barring an injury should hold every single-season passing mark in the next two games.

Georgia Southern quarterback Kyle Vantrease slings the ball downfield in the third quarter against James Madison at Paulson Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 15. Vantrease passed for a Georgia Southern record 578 yards in the Eagles' 45-38 victory.


“We were going up against the No. 1 ranked rush defense and No. 2 overall defense in the country tonight,” said Helton. “As we got through the first quarter you could tell their No. 1 ranked run defense was for real. We felt we matched up good on the outside and we believe in our quarterback as he gives us hope in every game. Tonight, I thought he was absolutely stellar. The team we were playing hadn’t given up 300 yards yet this season, and we had 590 total yards with 578 passing.”


“Going in we knew what we had to do offensively,” said Vantrease. “With a rush defense like they have we had to throw the ball. Football is a game of adjustments and finding things that are working and coming back to it and we did a super job of being efficient. Guys stepped up and made a lot of plays and the line blocked great. Defense and special teams came through as well and I am really proud of this team.”


The much-maligned Eagle defense did give up 675 yards of total offense, but was able to offset that by creating four JMU turnovers. Centeio came into the game with 14 touchdowns and only one interception. Saturday the Eagle defense came up with three interceptions including the game clincher by Wilson with less than 30 seconds left.


“In practice we really wanted to work on getting more turnovers,” said Wilson. “We wanted to hustle more to the ball, and you see what happens when you hustle to the ball. The game rewards you, so that is a testament to our practice habits and we are just going to keep going from here.”


The next place the Eagles will be going is to Old Dominion next Saturday. The Monarchs knocked off Coastal Carolina 49-21 Saturday to improve to 3-3 overall and 2-0 in Sun Belt play.