Halloween is still a few days away, but Georgia Southern fans will be hard-pressed to find anything scarier than what they witnessed at Paulson Stadium Thursday night.
Spotted a 10-0 advantage - largely due to defensive and special teams play - the Eagles (4-4, 3-2 Sun Belt) never found the scoreboard again. Appalachian State (6-2, 4-0) tied it up by halftime and dominated the second half, walking away with a 34-10 victory.
“I’m frustrated, mad, disappointed,” GS coach Tyson Summers said. “I’m sure our players feel the same way. We take an early lead and are tied at the half, be we just weren’t playing the way we need to play.”
In a season that has been derided for a once-powerful running game losing its punch, the Eagles hit a new low.
At one point in the fourth quarter, Georgia Southern was sitting on 48 yards of total offense. The Eagles only managed 159 yards by the final whistle, much of it coming on a final drive after the game had been decided.
Despite the Eagles’ offensive woes, the game was tied at 10-10 midway through the third quarter.
Georgia Southern looked to have earned the ball back when a third down snap sailed past ASU quarterback Taylor Lamb to set up 4th-and-24, but the Eagles were flagged for roughing the kicker on the ensuing punt to give App a new set of downs. The Mountaineers converted another fourth down during their drive and settled for a 28-yard Michael Rubino field goal to take their first lead of the night.
“I take the blame for that,” Summers said. “We wanted to set up a block. We ended up with four guys near the punter who probably should have held off. Instead it’s a penalty and (Appalachian) ends up taking advantage.”
True freshman quarterback Seth Shuman took the field for the Eagles on the ensuing series. Shuman had already thrown an interception in the first half and lofted another — this time to ASU safety A.J. Howard — on the second play of the drive.
Appalachian State’s ensuing drive also lasted just two plays. Lamb found Shaedon Meadors for 22 yards to get into GS territory before keeping it himself on a 30-yard run to make it a 20-10 game.
More ineptness from the Georgia Southern offense led to another three-and-out and Appalachian State began the fourth quarter by driving 88 yards on eight plays against a tired Eagle defense, capped by a 12-yard touchdown on an option pitch to Marcus Cox.
The Mountaineers’ second-stringers got on the fun against a tiring GS defense at the end, finishing the night’s scoring with a 15-yard dash by Jalin Moore.
“We couldn’t get anything going with any sort of consistency on offense,” Summers said. “When you do that, the defense ends up being out there too long and having to do too much.”
Georgia Southern was unable to do anything on its first possession and punted away, but on the Mountaineers’ second offensive snap of the night, Lamb threw a pass that was tipped by a receiver and right into the arms of Darius Jones.
A solid run by Matt Breida and a personal foul on Appalachian State set the stage for L.A. Ramsby to take a snap out of the wildcat formation and rush to the ASU 1. But on third and goal, another wildcat snap sailed over Ramsby’s head, forcing the Eagle running back to dive on the ball at the 15.
Younghoe Koo salvaged the scoring chance, connecting on a 32 yard field goal to give the Eagles a 3-0 advantage.
Appalachian State seemed primed to answer right back.
The Mountaineers steadily marched down the field and even converted a 4th-and-1 on the GS 21 to keep the drive alive. Appalachian State finally tried to settle for a 21-yard field goal, but an early snap resulted in a botched hold.
Georgia Southern linebacker Ukeme Eligwe picked up the loose ball and found a wall of blockers to guide him to a 90-yard touchdown return and give the Eagles a 10-0 advantage.
“My job was actually to cover the flat,” Eligwe said. “I guess Chris (DeLaRosa) batted the ball and it came to me. After that, the guys did a great job of blocking for me.”
From there, the Eagle offense couldn’t do anything more to help the cause and Appalachian State began to chip away. Taylor Lamb got the Mountaineers on the board with a 14-yard touchdown run and Rubino tied the score on a 32-yard field goal with just over a minute to play in the half.
After that, it was all Mountaineers as they claimed their second straight win in the rivalry series.