STATESBORO, Ga. - Antonio Henton scored a 25-yard touchdown run in the first overtime, then the defense held Northeastern on fourth down as Georgia Southern defeated the Huskies 34-27 Saturday night (Sept. 13) at Paulson Stadium. The Eagles (2-1 overall) snapped a four-game losing streak in overtime, last winning in extra periods three years ago at Northeastern.
In fact, it was the first career overtime win in six decisions for Eagles' head coach Chris Hatcher. After some late minute heroics to force overtime, Henton took it upon himself to secure the win.
The Eagles tried a deep endzone pass to Raja Andrews on first down, but Northeastern (0-2) knocked the ball away. On the next play, Henton faked a handoff to Darell Norman, kept the ball and raced down the right sidelines for the eventual game-winning score. Jesse Hartley's extra point made it a touchdown margin.
The defense gave up a three yard run, forced an incomplete pass then stopped quarterback Anthony Orio a yard shy of a first down. On a reverse running back Alex Broomfield tried a pass to tight end Brian Mandeville, but the ball fell incomplete and the Eagles won their second straight.
"All week what we've hammered to the guys is the tradition and the win streaks that have been here at Paulson Stadium, and how special playing at home is. We came out fired up tonight - we played four-and-a-half quarters of really intense (football) the whole game, we played a good football team that executed well," said Hatcher. "I'm proud of our guys. It's the first overtime victory that I've ever been associated with."
In order to force overtime, the Eagles needed more fourth quarter heroics, just like last week against Austin Peay. Leading 27-21 and starting a drive with 3:07 left in regulation, Northeastern drove into Georgia Southern territory. Facing 3rd-and-1 on the Eagles' 26, Broomfield took an option pitch. Chris Rogers forced the fumble and J.B. Shippy recovered on the 15.
With 94 seconds to work with on the clock, Henton found freshman Leander Barney for 20 yards. On the very next snap, Henton connected with Tim Camp. The senior wide receiver shook loose of a couple tackles and raced 65 yards into the left corner of the endzone for his first collegiate receiving touchdown. However, the Huskies line broke through the middle and blocked Hartley's extra point attempt, leaving the game tied.
Georgia Southern's defense actually held Northeastern again, and took over on its own 34. Henton and Andrews connected for 39 yards. But with 14 seconds left, Hartley just missed a 43-yard attempt left, which brought on the Eagles' sixth overtime game in the last three years.
Northeastern could not have scripted a better start to the game. The Eagles recovered a pooch kickoff by Northeastern on their own 41. Andrews fumbled Henton's pass on the first play. Two plays later Broomfield scored from six yards out to give the Huskies a 7-0 lead in the first minute.
Georgia Southern quickly responded, marching 61 yards in eight plays. Henton found Demarcus Watts for 21 yards on third down, then later hit Andrews again. Andrews fumbled but Camp scooped up the loose ball on the seven yard line and scored. Hartley's extra point tied the game.
NU moved down the field, helped by a third down pass play covering 17 yards and an offsides call to give the Huskies a first down. Broomfield's 2-yard run put NU ahead 14-7 with 7:44 left in the first.
On the Eagles ensuing drive Henton found Andrews for 43 yards on the first play, down to the Northeastern 15. Henton took a run down to the one then punched it in on 3rd-and-goal. Hartley tied the score at 14-all with 5:57 remaining.
Orio found Conner Gilmartin-Donohue on a 3-yard touchdown pass at the start of the second quarter to take a touchdown lead. On the kickoff, GS could not recover the squib kick and NU recovered on the Eagles 31. Broomfield was stopped short of the goal line by E.J. Webb, who forced a fumble and Darrel Pasco recovered on the four.
Northeastern ate up nine minutes of the clock in the second quarter, needing 18 plays to cover 77 yards. With 2nd-and-goal from the one, the Eagle defense held twice and the Huskies settled for a 19-yard field goal by Mat Johnson to extend their lead to 10.
Thanks in large part to the nine minute drive, NU had twice as many first downs as Georgia Southern (16-8) and out-gained the Eagles 291-137 during the first half.
The Eagles held Northeastern to a 3-and-out to start the third quarter. On their drive, Henton picked up a first down on 4th-and-inches in NU territory. Henton and Andrews connected again, this time for 40 yards. Three plays later Henton scrambled and would score from five yards out, making it 24-21.
Johnson converted a 39-yard field goal near the end of the third quarter, making it 27-21.
"We are making silly mistakes and had opportunities to win in regulation and didn't get it done. You can tell our youth sometimes - we cut the lead down to three and had a really good drive going, we've got the ball on their side of the field and we get a personal foul penalty that thwarted a drive," admitted Hatcher. "Like I told the team 'You gotta always expect to win and then you gotta find a way to get it done'. Tonight we kept coming up with big stops defensively. We just kept coming up with big plays and 34 is more than 27 and we'll take 12 more just like it."
Henton registered the fifth-highest passing yardage total in program history, going 16-of-27 for 298 yards and two touchdowns (Tracy Ham three times, Travis Clark in 2006). He also rushed for 43 yards and three more scores. The five touchdowns accounted for by a quarterback are the most since Jayson Foster had a GS-record six (all rushing TDs) last year at Coastal Carolina.
Andrews (123 yards) and Camp (77) both recorded career-high receiving totals. Barney finished with three receptions for 61 yards.
The defense allowed just three points in the second half and 161 total yards. Quentin Taylor registered a season-high 13 tackles, one off his career-high. Rogers matched his career-high of nine tackles and forced the third fumble of his career. Brandon Echols and Chris Covington had seven tackles each.
Orio completed 24-of-38 passes for a career-high 287 yards (but only 79 yards in the second half) and a touchdown. Broomfield rushed for 126 yards and two scores, in addition to his six receptions for 82 yards. Mandeville also caught six receptions, totaling 82 yards. Three Huskies tallied eight tackles each, including David Akinniyi who registered two sacks.
The Eagles begin Southern Conference play next Saturday (Sept. 20), playing host to Elon. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Paulson Stadium and the game will be televised live on CSS.