STATESBORO, Ga. -- J.R. Revere felt like a caged lion, confined to the sidelines, encouraging a defense that was going backward as top-ranked Georgia Southern desperately tried to stay ahead.
"No one was hearing me," the Eagles junior quarterback said.
Before 21,899 fans, the fourth-largest crowd in Paulson Stadium history, Revere made enough noise early, and the defense got the message just in time to hold off Appalachian State, 34-28.
Revere ran for 147 yards and two touchdowns and threw a scoring pass to Chris Johnson as Georgia Southern tallied 34 points on its last seven full possessions.
Adrian Peterson had 186 yards and a touchdown, and kicker Rob Bironas booted field goals of 30 and 24 yards.
But the Eagles' fate wasn't decided until defensive back Nate Gates intercepted David Reeves' pass at the Eagles 6 with seven seconds left.
That left Georgia Southern (6-1, 5-0) as the only undefeated team in the Southern Conference.
"The hard part wasn't playing Appalachian State," Revere said. "The hard part was beating them."
Georgia Southern has a history of struggling with the Mountaineers. Appalachian State is the only Division I-AA team to beat the Eagles during the regular season in the past 2' years. It's also the only Southern Conference team to beat Georgia Southern coach Paul Johnson.
Last season, Appalachian defeated Georgia Southern 17-16 in Boone, N.C.
"I didn't even step on the field last year, but I was one of the most ticked off persons," Revere said.
This time, Revere left happy. The offense generated 482 yards, 300 in the second half.
"J.R. is a competitor," Eagles coach Johnson said. "He doesn't have any lack of confidence in himself."
Behind Revere, Georgia Southern built a 24-7 advantage. But in the final 18:37, Appalachian scored three touchdowns, twice closing within a field goal.
"(Appalachian) got some offensive rhythm and put on a show," Johnson said.
With 6:01 left, Reeves threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Troy Albea to make it 31-28. Reeves completed 11 of 16 passes for 111 yards when Mountaineers starting quarterback Joe Burchette was forced out of the game with an ankle sprain.
But Georgia Southern ate five minutes off the clock, finally settling for a Bironas field goal to take a six-point lead. Reeves drove Appalachian State to the Eagles' 25 with 18 seconds left before Gates stepped in front of a hurried toss.
"It was as scary as it gets out there," Gates said.
The Eagles, haunted by turnovers in Boone a year ago, took advantage of two fumbles and an interception to take a 10-7 halftime lead.
Lineman Gino Tutera's recovery of a bad quarterback-center exchange set up Bironas' 30-yard field goal, providing the three-point cushion.
The Mountaineers began the scoring after a tense opening 11 minutes. Jerry Beard ripped off a 42-yard gain on an off-tackle run to get Appalachian State out of a hole at the 7.
Two plays later, wideout Rashad Slade got behind the Eagles secondary and hauled in a 33-yard pass from Burchette to the 1. Burchette finished the four-play drive by diving into the end zone on the next play, and Appalachian led 7-0.
But the Mountaineers could have stuck a dagger deeper into the wounded Eagles. Appalachian State drove inside Georgia Southern's 30-yard line on three other first-half occasions but left scoreless.
Karim Razzak fumbled at the Eagles 27 on the Mountaineers' first offensive play. Four plays into the second quarter, Appalachian State drove to the Eagles 25, but Mark Wright missed a 42-yard field goal attempt. Late in the half, the Mountaineers threatened again, traveling from the Appalachian 20 to the Southern 21. But Burchette threw into tight pass coverage, and Eagles safety David Young wrestled the attempt away from the intended receiver at the 3.
Georgia Southern's offense started slowly. The Eagles were held scoreless in the first quarter for the first time since getting blanked by East Tennessee on Nov. 2, 1996.
Georgia Southern's frustrations never showed, even though the Eagles were stopped on five straight possessions. The Eagles went 77 yards in four plays, capped by Revere's 37-yard touchdown pass to Chris Johnson, tying the game at 7-7.
Appalachian hoped to reassert itself in the second half. On fourth-and-1 from the Appalachian State 40, the Mountaineers decided to go for a first down. But the Eagles' defense, gouged for a season-high 506 yards, didn't give up the biggest yard. Burchette was stopped on a quarterback sneak, inches short of the first down.
"I didn't think they were going to snap the ball, but they snapped it and we stopped it," Tutera said.
On the next play, Revere scooted 40 yards for a touchdown, breaking tackles -- a la Adrian.
"Hey, he's my roommate. Naturally he's going to give me some tips," Revere said.
Peterson mirrored Revere on the next drive and finished a six-play, 80-yard drive with a 24-yard touchdown run to make it 24-7.
Appalachian State closed to 24-21 and 31-28 but fell short.
But Revere, a first-year starter, continued to make plays.
"It's starting to sink in now; this (team) is mine," Revere said.