Then, everything came into bloom for the young Eagles.
From the bleakest scenario, Georgia Southern rallied. Seven turnovers didn't stop it. Nor did the 137 penalty yards.
The Eagles never gave up. They overcame a 28-point deficit in the final 10 minutes, 43 seconds to defeat Western Carolina 38-31 in overtime.
"First I was thinking, 'how's Western Carolina doing this,' " Georgia Southern cornerback Ronnie Wiggins said. "Then I was thinking, 'it's just going to be the greatest comeback. A good story for the press.' "
Tailback Adam Urbano won the marathon with a 25-yard run. But how did it get to that point?
Georgia Southern (4-4, 2-3 Southern Conference) was down 24-0 by halftime and 31-3 in the fourth quarter to a team that has now lost 20 conference games in a row.
In what might be the greatest comeback in school history, the Eagles scored touchdowns on their last five possessions.
The scoring barrage began with a blocked punt by Georgia Southern's Brett Layson. Along the way, kicker Patrick Bolen executed a perfect onside kick.
Backup quarterback Lee Chapple ignited a stagnant offense, and starting QB Antonio Henton, nursing a sprained ankle, continued the improbable run.
And the Eagles got a huge break. After closing within 31-24 in the final minute, officials flagged Western Carolina cornerback Antoine George for interference on a fourth-and-20 play to keep the game-tying drive alive.
The Eagles lost three games this season by a total of four points to No. 2 Appalachian State, No. 3 Elon and No. 4 Wofford. But they found a way to win this time.
A reverse with a pitch back to Henton, who threw a 13-yard TD pass to Swainsboro alum Raja Andrews, on a fourth-and-1, whittled Western Carolina's lead to 31-24 with 4:39 seconds left.
Henton's shovel flip to Tim Camp from the 5 tied it with 32 seconds left in regulation. And Urbano's game-winning run was a fake off the original reverse.
"This was Georgia Southern football," Andrews said. "We played hard until the final seconds ticked off."
Reach Donald Heath at firstname.lastname@example.org.