STATESBORO, Ga. - Georgia Southern staged yet another fourth quarter comeback and eventually went for the game-winning two-point conversion in overtime, but the pass attempt fell incomplete and Wofford came away with a 38-37 Southern Conference win Saturday night at Paulson Stadium (Sept. 27). The Eagles fell to 2-3 overall and 0-2 in the SoCon while Wofford improved to 3-1 and 1-0.
In order to get to overtime, the Eagles had to first make an impressive goal line stand against the nation's second-leading rushing team as Wofford had 2nd-and-goal from the one. Evan Mattingly stuffed Dane Romero on second down, Quentin Taylor stopped Ben Widmyer on third down then senior All-America Chris Covington held Romero for a 1-yard loss as the Eagles found themselves down three with 4:53 remaining.
Quarterbacks Antonio Henton and Lee Chapple took over on their own half-yard line and promptly marched the Eagles down the field. Henton rushed for nine yards on 3rd-and-2, Terence Hall gained 18 yards on 3rd-and-19 then Henton rushed for three yards to pick up the first down. Chapple hit Tim Camp for 14 yards, down to the Wofford 30. He scrambled for eight, then found Raja Andrews for six yards and a first down. Chapple gained nine yards on two passes, setting up 4th-and-1 from the nine with 9.8 seconds left. Adrian Mora nailed a 25-yard field goal to send it to overtime.
Wofford started with the ball in overtime but a penalty and incomplete pass would set up 4th-and-8 from the 23. Widmyer threaded the needle to Andy Strickland for 22 yards then Widmyer took it in himself for a 1-yard score.
On the Eagles' first play Adam Urbano took a pitch and raced 25 yards for a touchdown. Head coach Chris Hatcher and the team immediately decided to go for the win. Under pressure, Chapple scrambled around but his pass fell incomplete as the Eagles lost their second straight game.
"I'm disappointed we got beat. We played hard, we had a chance there to get beat bad with a couple of costly mistakes early," said Hatcher. "We bent a lot on defense but we didn't break. What a goal-line stand there in the fourth quarter and then what an awesome 89-yard drive to get it off our one-foot line to tie the game. The thing that disappoints me the most is after we scored I had a fake-field goal called that we practice all the time and we had a couple of boys not run out there. Then at the end I thought I had a good call for the two-point conversion."
Two key mistakes early on put the Eagles behind right off the bat. GS won the coin flip and elected to receive. Samair Baker ran the ball up to the 40, but fumbled and Wofford took over. Seven plays later Romero scored from seven yards out.
On the Eagles' next drive, Henton attempted a pass to Nick Bass, but the true-freshman making his first collegiate start had the ball bounce off him then Seth Goldwire caught it and ran it in from 35 yards giving Wofford a 14-0 lead three minutes into the game.
Wofford launched a punt into the endzone late in the first quarter and the Eagles took over on their own 20. Chapple entered the game, and promptly drove GS down the field in eight plays for a touchdown. Chapple went 4-for-5 passing for 69 yards, and rushed for eight yards, capping the drive with a 35-yard touchdown pass to Tim Camp. Mora converted the extra point.
Patrick Mugan hit a 39-yard field goal midway through the second making it 17-7 Terriers.
The Eagles needed just two plays to respond. After a first down incompletion, Chapple hit Demarcus Watts on a screen and broke it for a 58-yard touchdown making it 17-14.
Wofford took the kickoff and thanks to a 31-yard return and facemask penalty started at midfield. The Terriers reached the endzone in four plays, capped by Romero's 2-yard touchdown run for a 24-14 lead. Romero also scored from a yard out in the final minute to make it 31-14 at the half.
However, much like the defense has done all season, the second half belonged to them allowing the offense to rally.
As the Terriers were marching towards another score, Chris Rogers forced a fumble on Michael Scott and Dakota Walker scooped up the loose ball and raced 78 yards for a touchdown. The senior defensive end's first collegiate touchdown set a Georgia Southern record for longest fumble return for a score to make it 31-21.
Near the start of the fourth quarter, the Eagles' defense held again and forced Wofford to attempt a 33-yard field goal. However, Patrick Mugan pushed it right for only his second miss of the year.
Henton and Chapple again combined to march the Eagles down the field. Henton connected with Bass for a 41-yard completion down to the one. On 3rd-and-goal Henton scrambled right and scored with 9:36 remaining to make it a three point game.
"I'm at a loss for words because this team has played hard every game and that's what you like to see. You like to see them fight like this with all of these young players that we have. Good things are going to happen to the Eagles. We got beat - I'm disappointed in that, but I don't know if I've ever been more proud of a group after a defeat than this football team tonight," stated Hatcher.
Covington finished with a career-high 19 tackles, the sixth-highest single-game total in program history. Taylor was right behind also posting a career-high of 18 stops.
Terrione Benefield registered a career-high making 13 tackles and Damon Suggs also recorded a career-high with 10 tackles.
Chapple, who entered the game with only 117 passing yards, completed 15-of-22 for 202 yards and two touchdowns. His one interception came on a desperation throw at the end of the first half. He also rushed for 14 yards. Chapple and Henton become the only set of GS quarterbacks to ever throw for 200 yards (in separate games) during the same season.
Henton threw for 56 yards and rushed for a team-high 61 yards. Watts set season-highs of three receptions for 119 yards - the third straight week an Eagle receiver recorded 100-plus receiving yards. Bass finished with 65 yards on three catches and Camp caught four passes for 60 yards. Barney not only completed a 45-yard pass he also caught four passes.
Romero tallied a game-high 118 rushing yards to go with his three scores. Mitch Allen came off the bench to complete 8-of-10 passes for 127 yards while rushing for another 63. Goldwire made 11 tackles, intercepted two passes and recovered a fumble. James Mitchell also recorded 11 stops.
The Eagles hit the road for the first time since the season-opener, traveling to Chattanooga next Saturday (Oct. 4). Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Finley Stadium.