The top-ranked Eagles bumbled numerous opportunities and left shaking their heads after falling to Appalachian State 31-28 before 22,155 fans -- the seventh largest crowd in Paulson Stadium.
Georgia Southern (7-2, 6-2 SoCon) had its 14-game home winning streak snapped. A six-game overall winning streak also came to an end.
“I’m disappointed. I’m disappointed for our kids,” said Eagles coach Jeff Monken in a monotoned voice. “I’m proud of our team winning six games in a row to give ourselves a chance to be in this position. We didn’t get it done.”
The good news came later for the Eagles. Samford defeated Wofford 24-17 in double overtime, leaving Georgia Southern a half-game in first place in the league standings ahead of Wofford and Appalachian State.
Atlanta native Jamal Jackson threw for a career-high 383 yards and three touchdowns Appalachian State (7-3, 5-2).
Jackson’s 23-yarder to Tony Washington was the game-winner with 11:25 left.
Appalachian State freshman receiver Sean Price made seven catches for a Paulson Stadium record 231 yards and a touchdown.
“It definitely hurts,” Georgia Southern defensive lineman Brent Russell said. “We knew what was on the line – the conference championship, the (league’s) automatic bid, home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. We were focused on App, but they had great players and they made plays.”
Georgia Southern had enough offense to get the job done against the normally stout Appalachian State defense. The Eagles’ triple-option attack produced 552 yards.
Fullback William Banks ran for a career-high 129 yards and three touchdowns. Jerick McKinnon added 121 as Georgia Southern ran for 386 yards.
But Georgia Southern had four possessions inside the Mountaineer 25 without scoring.
Freshman kicker Alex Hanks had a tough day, missing two 26-yard field goals and having a 24-yarder blocked.
The Eagles final chance reached Appalachian State 22. On fourth-and-4 with less than two minutes left, shunning another field-goal try, Georgia Southern picked up the first down on an option pitch only to have the play negated by a facemask call.