Story and photo courtesy of Georgia Southern Athletics
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. - Behind a career-high three rushing touchdowns from Jerick McKinnon (Marietta, Ga.), the second-ranked Georgia Southern Eagles won their sixth-straight game in overtime over the Chattanooga Mocs, 39-31, at Finley Stadium.
“Its agonizing with the emotion and the adrenaline,” Head Coach Jeff Monken said about the game going to overtime. “I’m proud of the effort of our guys to battle back. We’ve had a tough week with the loss of Elizabeth, which took a big toll on us emotionally. I’m really proud of the way our guys handled that, the way they handled the entire trip and to be able to gut it out, winning the game like that.”
McKinnon finished with 141 rushing yards, 55 yards passing and three scores as #2 Georgia Southern (7-1, 6-1) rushed for over 300 yards for the sixth time this season. The Eagles finished with 372 yards rushing and 427 yards of total offense. Darreion Robinson (Bishop, Ga.) added a career-best two touchdowns and 74 yards rushing, while Williams Banks (Augusta, Ga.), filling in for the injured Dominique Swope (Buford, Ga.), ran 18 times for 69 yards.
“Jerick got banged up a little bit there, but Ezayi came in and kept the ball going. People forget that we’ve got two very capable quarterbacks to run our system. Jerick did a nice job, he missed a couple of reads down the stretch, but he made some great plays as well to keep us in the game and give us a chance,” Monken said.
Led by freshman quarterback Jacob Huesman, Chattanooga (4-4, 3-2) posted 316 yards of total offense and scored 17 unanswered points to take a 24-21 lead in the fourth quarter. Huesman ran for 170 yards and two touchdowns while completing 11 passes for 102 yards and a score.
The win was just the second in the Monken era when trailing entering the fourth quarter and improved the school's all-time playoff record to 7-5. The game was the first overtime game since the 21-14 upset win over top-ranked Appalachian State on Nov. 6, 2010 and was just the second-ever triple overtime contest in school history.
The Eagles scored on their opening possession of the game after a 7 play 64-yard drive was capped off by a 29-yard touchdown run by Robinson. On an option pitch near the sideline, Robinson avoided a tackle for loss and reversed the play to score his second rushing touchdown of the season.
Chattanooga's Marquis Green fumbled the following kickoff return which was scooped up by Georgia Southern's Zach York (Hartwell, Ga.) at the bottom of a pile of about 10 players from both teams. The Eagles took advantage of the short field and four plays later went ahead 14-0 on a 10-yard rush by McKinnon.
When the Mocs got the ball back, Huesman led the team on a 75-yard four play touchdown drive that lasted just a 1:54. Huesman ran 44-yards to move Chattanooga from their own 34-yard line down to GSU's 22-yard line. Two plays later the freshman punched in the team's first score from 2-yards out.
After the Eagles jumped ahead 21-7 on an 18-yard touchdown run by McKinnon, Chattanooga scored 17 unanswered points to pull ahead for the first time in the game, 24-21. The Mocs started with a 39-yard field goal with 4:54 remaining in the second quarter and added back-to-back touchdowns in the third quarter on a 6-yard run by Marquis Green and a 10-yard rush by Huesman.
GSU responded after falling behind for the first time in the game and tied the contest at 24-24 on a 24-yard field goal from Alex Hanks (Marietta, Ga.) with 8:06 remaining in the fourth quarter. Hanks also had a chance to win the game before the end of regulation but missed what would have been a career-long 49-yard field goal wide right as time expired.
The Eagles quickly scored in overtime as Robinson ran around the right side on just the second play of the extra period for a 20-yard touchdown. After an incomplete pass narrowly missed the hands of Terrell Robinson on third down and 9 yards, Huesman connected with Faysal Shafaat in the back left corner of the endzone to force a second overtime period.
The Mocs missed a 41-yard field goal after the GSU defense forced a three and out, but the Eagles lost a fumble on their first play of the second overtime period to send the game to a third overtime period.
Georgia Southern opened the third overtime and quickly moved the ball down to the Chattanooga 9-yard line on a 3-yard run by Banks. Banks carried the ball again on third down and after a four yard gain was stopped one yard shy of a first down. After a timeout, McKinnon carried the ball over right tackle for the first down. McKinnon carried the ball again two plays later for a 1-yard touchdown and again on the successful two-point conversion.
The Eagles' defense again forced a fourth down on their own 5-yard line but were able to come up with the stop for no gain as Darius Eubanks (Thomson, Ga.) and J.J. Wilcox (Cairo, Ga.) converged on Huesman.
“Our guys just kept slugging it out tonight. We had some plays where I thought we were going to get off the field, but they made good plays. That touchdown on fourth down in the first overtime, Lavelle (Westbrooks) had him, but the guy went over top to get the ball, but hey that’s football,” Monken said about his team's defensive effort.
GSU returns home next weekend to host Appalachian State on ESPN3. The Eagles will be playing for a share of the Southern Conference championship. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m.