Omar Bayless hauled in an 8-yard touchdown pass from Justice Hansen with nine seconds left to lift Arkansas State to a 27-26 comeback victory over Georgia Southern Wednesday night.
JD Houston, who had field goals of 19 and 35 yards, kicked the extra point to give the Red Wolves (0-4, 1-0) their only lead of the night in the Sun Belt Conference opener.
It was the first meeting between A-State and Southern (3-2, 2-1) as Sun Belt Conference members. The teams met in 1986 in the I-AA title game, won by the Eagles,
After a 24-yard field goal from Younghoe Koo to cap the opening drive and Myles Campbell turned a short pass into a 63 yard TD play , the Eagles led 23-10 with 2:26 left in the third quarter.
Warren Wand, who rushed for a career-best 140 yards, scored on a 55-yard run with 1:46 left in the quarter trimmed it to 23-17.
Koo hit a 21-yard field goal after Cameron Echols-Luper fumbled a punt. Houston added a 35-yard kick with 6:32 left to make it 26-20.
A-State stopped Georgia Southern twice in the final stages and started its winning drive with 2:41 left to play. Bayless made his only grab of the night, sliding to a knee in the south end zone.
The Red Wolves won despite suffering 5 turnovers and forcing none. The Eagle got just 3 points off the miscues.
The turning point
Many will point at the game-winning drive engineered by Hansen but an even bigger moment was turned in by the defense after the fumbled punt. The Eagles reached the A-State 2 before stalling and having to settle a short field goal. A TD there puts the game out of reach.
The winning drive had its big moment when Hansen scrambling for 18 yards on fourth-and-16. Before the winning pass, he hit Kendall Sanders with a 29-yard gain to the 8.
The Red Wolves rushed for 343 yards, more than in the first four game combined.
A-State has won 34 of its last 40 Sun Belt games and 10 straight league games.
Wand had a career high and Johnston White also turned in a career-high with 126 yards. Both backs averaged 7.4 yards per carry.
The TD receptions for Justin McInnis and Bayless were the first of their careers at State,
Arkansas State was called for just two penalties.
Linebackers Xavier Woodson-Luster (14) and Kyle Wilson (13) had career highs in tackles. Chase Robison had a career-high 7 tackles.
Freshman Trent Ellis-Brewer had his first start.
Blake Anderson: “I’ve never seen anything like it. I know I’ve never as a player or as a coach won a game where we had 5 turnovers and did not create any. … We had eight practices. We hit each other. We tackled each other. We banged the guys up. … They just bought into going back and doing things simple, outworking, and out-hitting people.
Ga Southern coach Tyson Summers: I think they played hard and certainly wanted to win the game. You look at it, we don’t have enough touchdowns. We got opportunities in the red zone and we end up having to kick a field goal. We don’t have enough points off takeaways. … Got to give their coaches credit. 0-4, but they have got a good football team and a talented group and they found a win to win in the last second or two.