GREENVILLE, S.C. --- A patient coach and his trusting team, expecting nothing less than overnight success, had every reason to become impatient and non-believing Saturday afternoon.
Georgia Southern trailed Furman by 14 points after just 2 minutes and 12 seconds. The Eagles remained behind by 11 in the final four minutes of the fourth quarter and their playoff hopes were ticking away before they stormed back.
J.J. Wilcox completed a 20-play, 93-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run and Jaybo Shaw's 4-yard score with 1:07 left gave Georgia Southern a dramatic 32-28 victory over Furman at Paladin Stadium.
Georgia Southern (7-4, 5-3 Southern Conference) will find out today if winning its final three games, including an overtime victory over then-top-ranked Appalachian State, puts it in the 20-team Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.
The eight-man NCAA selection committee will announce the field at 10 a.m. on ESPNU.
"I certainly coached with the intent that we would be here (in the running for a postseason bid)," Southern's head coach Jeff Monken said.
Shaw, a transfer from Georgia Tech, tied a school-record with 36 carries for 101 yards and touchdown runs of 3, 1 and 4 yards. He also completed 5 of 6 passes for 126 yards.
Shaw's last touchdown culminated a 33-yard drive, set up by Roderick Tinsley's fumble recovery.
"If we get a chance to play next Saturday, we'll be grateful," Shaw said.
Georgia Southern, a six-time FCS national champion, hasn't made the playoffs since 2005.
"Every time you think of Georgia Southern, you think of the playoffs," Wilcox said. "I'm glad to be part of the legacy."
Furman coach Bobby Lamb announced his resignation on Friday and the Paladins, who slipped to 5-6, had hoped to give him a parting victory.
The Eagles and Paladins played another thriller in a rivalry that started with Georgia Southern College's 44-42 victory over Furman in the 1985 national championship game in Tacoma, Wash.
"That's Georgia Southern and Furman," said Tracy Ham, the hero quarterback of the first meeting and among the 3,000 Georgia Southern fans in attendance on Saturday for the latest edition.
"Turnovers are the only stat in football," said Lamb, who hopes to land another FCS coaching job.
The Paladins caught Georgia Southern in a corner blitz and all-conference wide receiver Adam Mims, who missed the last game with a knee injury, ran freely to get behind the secondary. Quarterback Cody Worley hit him in stride for a 72-yard touchdown pass and, 14 seconds into the game, Georgia Southern was behind.
It didn't take long to get worse. Shaw fumbled on the Eagles' second play from scrimmage and linebacker Chris Wiley recovered at the Georgia Southern 26.
Furman running back Jerry Williams scooted 6 yards for a touchdown to make it 14-0 just 2:12 into the game.
The Eagles then settled down and exploited Furman's porous rushing defense, which has allowed 205.2 yards a game on the ground, 105th among 117 Football Championship Subdivision teams.
Shaw scored from the 3-yard line on Georgia Southern's 10th consecutive run to cut the Furman lead in half.
The Eagles ran 10 of 11 plays on their next possession before settling for Adrian Mora's 41-yard field goal.
Penalties put Georgia Southern back in a hole. Two personal fouls and two offsides penalties gave Furman 34 of its 81 yards en route to Tersoo Uhaa's 1-yard touchdown dive with 3:31 left in the half to make it 21-10.
A 1-yard touchdown run by Shaw to start the third quarter whittled Furman's lead to 21-17.
Georgia Southern appeared ready to take the lead when a snap sailed over the head of Paladins punter Chas Short, setting up the Eagles at the Furman 22.
On the first play, fullback Robert Brown rumbled to the 3. But Furman made a goal-line stand and took over at the 1. Two plays later, Williams' fumbled and the Eagles were in business at the Paladin 5.
Brown fumbled and Ryan Steed returned the loose ball 89 yards to the Georgia Southern 8. Three plays later, Worley's 10-yard strike to Tyler Maples finished an incredible turn of events and put the Paladins ahead, 28-17.