SAN MARCOS, Texas – Eagle junior safety Matt Dobson picked off Texas State quarterback Tyler Jones in the end zone and returned it a school-record 102 yards for a touchdown on the last play of the third quarter, and it proved to be the game-winning points, lifting Georgia Southern to a 28-25 victory over Texas State at Bobcat Stadium Saturday afternoon. Georgia Southern improved to 8-2 overall and remained undefeated in the Sun Belt Conference at 7-0.
Texas State had just scored its first touchdown of the game to trim Georgia Southern’s lead to 21-10 and drove the ball deep into Eagle territory, looking for more. Dobson made a great open-field tackle on 3rd-and-goal, stopping Robert Lowe on the 1-yard line.
“It’s something we practice all the time – an Eagle tackle – two arms around two legs, and I was able to get the stop,” said Dobson.
On 4th-down, Jones rolled right, got pressured and threw into the end zone, where Dobson intercepted the pass and took off the other way. The junior’s second pick-6 of the season gave the Eagles a 28-10 cushion.
“They had been running a lot of stuff in the flat, and it was man-to-man coverage,” said Dobson. “I jumped the route in the flat, and I don’t think he saw me because he threw it right to me. The guys in the locker room always mess with me about not being the fastest guy, and I didn’t want them to mess with me so thankfully, I was able to make it all the way to the end zone.”
Texas State rallied furiously for 15 unanswered points and kept the football almost the entire fourth quarter with the help of stingy defense and an onside kick recovery. Trailing 28-17, the Bobcats forced the Eagles to go 3-and-out and then drove 82 yards in 1:51, capped by a six-yard touchdown pass from Jones to Lawrence White in the corner of the end zone. Jones ran for the two-point conversion on the quarterback keeper making the score 28-25 with 1:05 to go.
L.A. Ramsby recovered the on-side kick this time for the Eagles, but Georgia Southern had one more bullet to dodge. Ramsby ran up the middle and fumbled on the next play, but center Manrey Saint-Amour fought off a litter of Bobcats to recover the ball with 50 seconds left. Texas State burned a timeout, leaving them one left, and Georgia Southern was able to run out the clock for the win.
“They had the two timeouts so if you run the ball in that situation, you take three or four seconds off the clock each time, but if you just take a knee, you give them about 10 seconds,” said Georgia Southern coach Willie Fritz. “The clock probably should have run out without the fourth-down play. It didn’t look pretty, but we got it done.”
Georgia Southern has just one league game left, a home showdown with UL Monroe later this month, which will also be the night the Eagles will recognize the seniors in their final home game. The Eagles travel to Navy for a 3:30 p.m. game on CBS Sports Network next Saturday.
“They aren’t all going to be easy and this one certainly wasn’t easy,” said Fritz, “but we flew halfway across the country and came out with a victory. It shows a lot of maturity. We tell our guys all the time that it’s hard to stay mentally focused. It’s human nature to back off and not be sharp mentally. You have relish the grind of the season. So we’ll get after it this week and get ready for Navy.”
Matt Breida rushed for 120 yards on 11 carries and two touchdowns, his sixth game with 100-plus yards and fifth with two or more TDs. Kevin Ellison ran for 62 yards and threw for 41, and Ramsby ran for 45 yards and a score.
The Georgia Southern defense held the Bobcats to 2-for-11 on third down through the first 46 minutes of the contest, and had two huge 4th-down stops in the second half. Dobson finished with a career-best 12 tackles, and Antonio Glover had eight tackles, with two for loss, and his first career interception. Edwin Jackson made 11 tackles with eight solo stops.
Jones completed 30-of-51 passes for 302 yards and two touchdowns but had two interceptions for Texas State (5-4, 3-2). Brandon Smith had eight receptions for 97 yards, and Bradley Miller caught six balls for 59 yards.
After the Eagles led 14-3 at halftime, Glover set up a shorter field early in the third quarter when the safety dove in front of Miller and picked off a Jones pass on the sideline. The Eagles took the ball into Texas State territory, and then Breida picked up some good blocks at the line of scrimmage and scooted 43 yards for a touchdown and a 21-3 cushion.
Two penalties on the Eagles helped Texas State score its first touchdown with 6:05 left in the quarter. The first came after Breida’s touchdown and gave the Bobcats good field position at their own 42-yard line. After sacks by Bernard Dawson and Quan Daniels made it 3rd-and-29, Jones overthrew a receiver but the Eagles were flagged for a personal foul, giving the Bobcats an automatic first down. Jones hit a wide-open Ryan Carden on the seam route for a 32-yard touchdown pass to trim the margin to 21-10.
After Dobson’s pick-6, Jones hit Miller for 24 yards and found Smith for 18 yards to help move the ball into Eagle territory. Lowe trimmed the margin to 28-17 with a 1-yard touchdown run with 6:25 remaining, and kicker Will Johnson recovered his own on-side kick to give the ball back to Texas State.
Jones completed two passes to Smith for 24 yards, and the Bobcats moved the ball to the Eagle 30-yard line. But on 4th-and-inches, Jay Ellison penetrated the line of scrimmage, and Jackson came into stop Lowe short with 5:08 to play.
“Defensively, we played extremely well in phases of the game,” said Fritz. “That fourth down was a huge play.
I thought Texas State had a very good game plan, and we started getting stagnant offensively. We ran the ball a little more than we may have given the looks they were giving us because we were trying to bleed the clock.”
Breida put the Eagles on the scoreboard first with a one-yard touchdown run on 3rd-and-goal with 4:02 left in the first quarter. Ellison set up the score with a 41-yard run, his second longest of the season, on the option as the quarterback kept the ball around the right side, then cut back left for the big 3rd-down gain.
Texas State trimmed the margin to 7-3 early in the second quarter when Johnson booted a 39-yard field goal. A 25-yard run by C.J. Best on a reverse set up the scoring drive, but on 3rd-and-9 from the Georgia Southern 22-yard line, the Eagles pressured Jones, and the sophomore’s pass sailed over the head of Best.
Ramsby extended the margin with a 4-yard touchdown run midway through the second quarter. The sophomore’s 22-yard run through the left side on 3rd-and-3 kept the drive alive, and Breida followed that with a 34-yard run through the right side to move the ball to the Bobcat 12-yardline. Ramsby took over from there, running for eight yards on first down and scoring the TD on second down.
Texas State moved the ball down to the Georgia Southern 36-yard line late in the half and elected to go for it on 4th-and-7. Jones found Miller, but Deion Stanley made a nice open-field tackle after a 1-yard gain. In addition to the fourth-down stop, the Eagles held the Bobcats to 2-for-8 on third downs in the first half.
Georgia Southern plays its final non-conference contest of the season next Saturday, when the Eagles travel to Navy for a 3:30 p.m. contest. The game will be televised live on the CBS Sports Network.