Game Recap: Football — Marc Gignac
Eagle quarterback Kyle Vantrease sets the school single-game passing record in the win.
Kyle Vantrease connected with Derwin Burgess Jr. for a 22-yard touchdown pass down the sideline with 1:10 remaining, and Anthony Wilson sealed the win with an interception as Georgia Southern topped No. 25 James Madison 45-38 in Sun Belt football action Saturday evening in Allen E. Paulson Stadium.
The Eagles went for two points after the Burgess Jr. touchdown, and Jalen White ran it in for the seven-point lead. Todd Centeio, who finished the game with 468 passing yards and five total touchdowns, drove the Dukes into GS territory, but Wilson picked off his pass over the middle at the Eagle 19-yard line, took a few steps and then took a knee to give the Eagles the ball back with 18 seconds to go.
Vantrease finished the game with a school-record 578 passing yards and four touchdowns, and the fifth-year senior kept the Eagles’ final scoring drive alive with a 14-yard pass to Khaleb Hood on 4th-and-10 from the James Madison 47-yard line.
The teams combined to score 24 points in the final seven minutes of the game, and there were two lead changes in the final three minutes of the contest. Each team trailed by double digits in the game, and the teams combined for 1,265 total yards, including 1,046 through the air.
Eagles of the Game:
Amare Jones caught seven passes for a career-high 164 yards and two touchdowns, and Hood finished with eight catches for 131 yards. Jeremy Singleton caught seven passes for 108 yards, and Burgess Jr. finished with seven receptions for 84 yards and the game-winning touchdown.
Wilson had 11 tackles and a sack to go along with the interception, and Derrick Canteen finished with 12 tackles, a sack and three pass breakups. Alex Raynor made three second-half field goals.
After trailing by 10 points, Centeio hit Terrance Greene Jr. on a slant, and he went the distance for the 25-yard touchdown reception. Camden Wise added the point after to give the Dukes a 38-37 lead with 2:28 to play, setting up the Eagles’ late-game heroics.
The Dukes (5-1, 3-1) converted a 4th-and-9 with a 20-yard pass from Centeio to Kris Thornton to keep their drive alive. The Eagles (4-3, 1-2) looked to have a gotten a turnover after Najee Thompson tipped a Centeio pass into the air and Wilson caught it by the sideline, but it was ruled Wilson’s foot was out of bounds when he caught it, negating the interception.
Vantrease broke a 24-24 tie when he threw a short pass to Jalen White who rounded the corner and scampered down the sideline for a 37-yard touchdown to put the Eagles ahead 31-24 late in the third quarter.
On the Dukes’ ensuing possession, Reid Dedman forced a fumble after a reception by Devin Ravenel, and Tyler Bride recovered it for the Eagles at the JMU 45-yard line. Vantrease completed a 20-yard pass to Burgess Jr. to help set up a 46-yard field goal by Raynor, giving GS a 34-24 cushion early in the fourth quarter.
The Dukes trimmed the margin to 34-31 on a 28-yard touchdown pass from Centeio to Reggie Brown with 6:24 left in the game. James Madison used three plays to go 91 yards down the field and scored in 57 seconds, keyed by a 41-yard pass from Centeio to Thornton.
Vantrease hooked up with Hood for a 38-yard pass play to lead the Eagles down the field, but their drive stalled out at the JMU 6-yard line. GS settled for a 24-yard field goal by Raynor to increase the lead to 37-31 with 3:53 to play.
Trailing 17-14 at halftime, the Eagles tried an onside kick but were flagged for offsides, giving the Dukes the ball at the GS 36-yard line. Three plays later, Centeio ran it in from 10 yards out to increase the margin to 24-14.
The Eagles answered on their first play from scrimmage as Vantrease rolled right and heaved the ball to Jones, who made the grab between two Dukes and had nothing but green turf ahead of him. It was a 75-yard touchdown pass, the longest scoring play of the season, and cut the lead to 24-21. The Eagles tacked on a Raynor 20-yard field goal to tie the score 24-24 with 5:39 remaining in the third quarter.
Georgia Southern trailed 14-0 early in the game but tied the score when Joshua Thompson blocked a Sam Clark punt at the 12-yard line and recovered it in the end zone for a touchdown 4:02 into the second quarter.
Key Stats and Notes:
- The Eagles had three receivers with 100 yards in a game for the first time in school history.
- It was the seventh-straight game with passing TD for Vantrease, and he set the school’s single-season passing TD record.
- The 25th-ranked Dukes were the fourth team to come into Paulson Stadium ranked by The Associated Press. Georgia Southern beat No. 25 App State at home in 2018 but fell to No. 21 Coastal Carolina and No. 14 BYU last year in Statesboro.
- After dropping the opener in 1985, Georgia Southern has now won the past eight games against James Madison to take an 8-1 lead in the series
- It was the first time the Eagles returned a blocked punt for a touchdown since 2020 at ULM when Rashad Byrd recovered a punt blocked by Najee Thompson in the end zone.
The Eagles travel to Old Dominion next Saturday for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff on ESPN+. Following the contest, GS plays three of its last four contests of the regular season at home.