ATHENS, Ga. — Sounds funny to say one play mattered exponentially in Georgia Southern’s 45-14 loss to fifth-ranked Georgia on Saturday afternoon in Sanford Stadium.
But one play seemed to change the momentum 180 degrees.
Just before the half, the Eagles were driving with a chance to take the lead.
They trailed 10-7, but on a fourth-and-1 from the Georgia 7, a handoff to fullback Dominique Swope gained two yards for the first down.
But officials whistled guard Trevor McBurnett for a chop block and the 15-yard penalty negated the first down.
Alex Hanks missed a 39-yard field goal, and Georgia drove 78 yards in 63 seconds to take a 17-7 lead.
“Honestly I don’t know,” McBurnett said. “On that play (nose guard) John (Jenkins) came toward me and I scooped him just like it’s legal in the rule book. If the ref called it, you have to live with it.”
McBurnett said the Eagles center Manrey Saint-Amour was already past the line of scrimmage so the block wasn’t a two-on-one.
During game week there had been a lot of talk about Georgia Southern’s blocking in its triple-option scheme.
Georgia Southern coach Jeff Monken was so concerned he met with the referee and the umpire before the game to watch film on a similar block in a game involving Georgia Tech.
Monken said the officials agreed the block on the film was legal.
FBS FUTILITY: Georgia Southern fell to 0-20 against teams from the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Schools from the FBS play with 85 scholarship players. Football Championship Subdivision teams have 63 scholarships distributed among 85 players.
The Eagles defeated Florida International 53-32 in 2004, but FIU was in transition to play in FBS.
Georgia Southern is 0-3 against FBS teams during Monken’s coaching reign. The Eagles lost to Navy 13-7 in 2010 and Alabama 45-21 last season.
SOCON CHAMPS: The Eagles captured the Southern Conference’s automatic bid to the FCS playoffs by virtue of The Citadel’s 42-20 victory over Furman.
Georgia Southern, Wofford and Appalachian State finished in a three-way tie for first place in league standings with 6-2 records. Each team went 1-1 against the other two first-place teams.