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App State Rival Georgia Southern Beats Historic College Football Powerhouse Florida Gators Saturday


By Jesse Wood

Nov. 25, 2013. Just as the Appalachian State Mountaineers finished its last season in the Southern Conference victorious, its FBS-bound rival Georgia Southern beat a college powerhouse to cap its Southern Conference era on Saturday.

The Eagles beat the unranked Florida Gators 26 to 20 in Gainesville, Fla. This was the first time that an FCS team beat the Gators in its history, and Gators coach Will Muschamp called it an “embarrassment” as the Gators moved to 4-7 on the season.

Coincidentally, the Eagles, which aren’t eligible for post season play because of its pending move to FBS, ended any hopes the Gators had for a bowl berth.

Courtesy Georgia Southern Athletics
Courtesy Georgia Southern Athletics

Just as this was the Gators first loss to an FCS team, Saturday’s win was the first win against an FBS opponent for the Eagles in 21 games.

“This is unbelieveable,” said senior running back William Banks. “From the beginning of the season we said we were going to go 11-0, and we let Eagle Nation down, I hope this makes up for it.”

Eagles only threw three passes the entire game for zero completions but racked up 429 rushing yards. See complete stats here

ESPN described the celebration as players rushed the field with their smart phones to capture the moment forever.  

From ESPN:

“Georgia Southern, a six-time FCS champion making the move to the Football Bowl Subdivision next season, rushed the field and celebrated wildly. Players and coaches stopped long enough to pose for a team picture near the 30-yard line, and then the party really started.

They ran toward the band and eventually settled down long enough to sing the alma mater. Someone at Florida didn’t want to hear it, though.

Just as the visitors got going, the hometown P.A. started blaring music louder than usual.”

Both teams – App State and Georgia Southern – leave the Southern Conference after this season and head to the Sun Belt Conference. 

Earlier this year, Appalachian State creamed the Eagles 38-14 in one of its four victories in an otherwise disappointing season.

See release from Georgia Southern Athletics below:

If there were only going to be 11 games in the 2013 season, Georgia Southern was going to make the last one count. Senior Jerick McKinnon, who started at slot back,  and moved to third on the Eagles’ all-time rushing list, scored the winning touchdown to give the Eagles a 26-20 with 2:57 left in the game. Georgia Southern’s defense stopped the Gators’ final drive at the Eagles’ 17-yard line as the clock expired.

“I am so proud of our football team,” said Georgia Southern Head Football Coach Jeff Monken. ” This senior class, they talked about what it means to them to win this football game, and that is what college football is all about, days like today. It is a great, great win. The kids were just thrilled. That’s a big win for us and for our kids. “

The Gators used their last possession to drive down the field with a first and 10 at the Georgia Southern 24. Florida took a timeout after linebacker Edwin Jackson factored into the incomplete pass on that first play and then the Gators picked up seven yards on Florida quarterback Skyler Mornhinweg ‘s complete pass and called another timeout. The final two passes fell incomplete with safeties Matt Dobson and Antonio Glover breaking up the plays.

Georgia Southern, now 10-0 in games when not completing a pass, ran for all 429 yards with a 7.9 per attempt average. The stout Eagle defense held Florida to only 279 yards of total offense, its lowest total since a 2002 game against LSU.

“We just came out there and we were able to execute plays,” said redshirt freshman Kevin Ellison, who tied his career best with two rushing touchdowns. “We love our seniors, we are grateful for them. They showed a lot of leadership and Coach Monken motivated us to play hard.”

Mornhinweg connected with Solomon Patton on a 46-yard play to the end zone and the Gators added the point after to tie the game at 20 with 5:41 left to play in the game.  The Gators used three plays to go 59 yards after a failed fourth-and-two by the Eagles gave them the ball at the Eagle 41.

McKinnon and Ellison both went over the 100-yard mark with McKinnon netting 125 and the final touchdown and Ellison totaling 118 with his two. William Banks, who played exclusively in the second half, totaled 94 yards, including a 53-yard rush that set up the final touchdown. Banks, who had been out with an injury the previous week, scored the Eagles third touchdown to put them up 20-10 at the end of the third quarter. 

“That’s just Georgia Southern Football, we’re known for running for running the football,” said McKinnon. “We were able to execute the plays the coaches called.”

Kyle Oehlbeck, senior linebacker from Gainesville, had eight tackles, seven in the first half, playing with his usual intensity times 10. Junior linebacker Edwin Jackson played all over the field, making key tackles and leading the Eagles with 10 tackles.

“This is something I will never forget, it will stay with me the rest of my life,” said Kyle Oehlbeck. “This is an awesome feeling.”
McKinnon broke off for a 66-yard rush to bring the Eagles inside the Florida 10-yard line and

Ellison reached over the goal line to give Georgia Southern a 14-10 lead, one it would not relinquish, on the first possession of the second half. Younghoe Koo added the PAT, but would miss the point after on the Eagles’ third touchdown.

Georgia Southern had 50 more yards of total offense in the first half that was dictated by defense and marred by turnovers.  In the closing minutes of the first half, Ellison hit the endzone in full stride, splitting the defense with a 45-yard run for touchdown, needing only that one play and 10 seconds to get the Eagles within three points.

Florida’s Francisco Velez hit a 22-yard field goal with 12:02 left in the game to put the Gators within a touchdown at 20-13.

The Eagles could have had another score, but fumbled the ball at the Florida three-yard line with 4:17 left in the first quarter. The defense, though, didn’t allow the Gators to capitalize on the mistake, forcing them to a three-and out.  Junior Valdon Cooper, who started in place of an injured Lavelle Westbrooks at cornerback, was in on special teams and blocked a field goal that would have given Florida a 6-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.

This team has continued to push, fight and improve,” Monken said. ” I am just proud of the effort of our kids and our staff. Our staff did a tremendous job all week of getting our kids prepared for what they will see. Our kids were ready. We made some mistakes and we were able to overcome them. I think that makes it even more special. We didn’t play a perfect game.”

Georgia Southern finishes its season at 7-4 and with its first-ever win over a FBS or BCS team on its 21st try. The Eagles open the season on August 30, 2014 against N.C. State in Raleigh as a member of the Sun Belt Conference as 2013 was their final season after 21 seasons as a member of the FCS Southern Conference.

“This is unbelieveable,” said senior running back William Banks. “From the beginning of the season we said we were going to go 11-0, and we let Eagle Nation down, I hope this makes up for it.”