In 2013, the visiting Georgia Southern football team took down the Florida Gators, 26-20, in the last regular season matchup of their injury-ridden season.
In front of a packed Griffin Stadium, the Eagles managed to win the game with zero passing yards in their last game in FCS and the Southern Conference. It’s the first loss to an FCS school in UF history and this game will surely be talked about for years to come.
“Very disappointed for our program and [it’s] an embarrassment in this situation,” Head Coach Will Muschamp of the Gators said. “We’re gonna get it fixed, we just gotta keep working at what we’re doing, we’re just struggling.”
Leading GS is fourth-year Head Coach Jeff Monken and freshman quarterback Kevin Ellison, who were both locked into the triple-option style of play. GS is the first team to rush for more than 300 yards on UF since the Miami Hurricanes did in 2002 during their championship campaign.
The Gators came into the game on a five game losing streak, but put their hope into freshman running back Kevin Taylor, who holds the all-time record for rushing yards as a high schooler in the state of Florida. Though he finished the game with 92 rushing yards, UF was unable to score above 20 points for the sixth consecutive contest.
In the fourth quarter, UF began their comeback attempt to defeat GS. An eight play drive brought them to the end zone, but the campaign ended with a 22-yard field goal, making it a seven point game. Things started to heat up and UF started to find a passing rhythm for the first time. Redshirt-freshman quarterback Skyler Mornhinweg threw his longest pass of the day with 5:41 remaining to junior wide receiver Solomon Patton to tie up the game. Gator fans, who were absurdly quiet up to this point, erupted.
During the final three minutes of play, with a tied score, GS chose their plays wisely. The Eagles had one timeout remaining at the four minute mark, while UF had all three. A 52 -yard run by senior William Banks put the Eagles in prime scoring position and senior Jerick McKinnon ran in what would be the final scoring play of the day in the very next play, making it a 26-20 score. Younghoe Koo missed his second PAT of the day, and the Gators ran down the clock to just under twenty seconds. A running play by Patton falls short of a first down when UF calls their final timeout.
When fourth down rolls around, an incomplete pass by a scrambling Mornhinweg ran down the clock with the receiver around the three yard line. GS stormed the field and the Gators can be seen going straight to the locker room.
In the third quarter, GS came out of the halftime break with a burst of momentum and charged down the field on the first play thanks to a 66-yard run from Mckinnon. A one yard-run and a kick from Younghoe Koo gave GS their first lead of the game. A little over ten minutes later, a three yard run by Banks, followed by a missed kick from Koo, increased the lead, 20-10. UF went scoreless in this period and could not get past the newly enthused GS defense. Though there were no sacks in this game, there were several close calls. The Gators seemed out of sync and frazzled.
At halftime, Muschamp expressed his frustration with defending against the triple-option.
“They just caught us on the edge,” Muschamp said. “We got our game cut out for us here and we’ve gotta take care of the football.”
On the other side of the field, Monken from GS wanted to stay true to the game plan in the second half. There were already two fumbles at this point and too many yards lost.
“I hope we made an adjustment not to fumble the ball,” Monken said. “If we eliminate that, I like our chances to move the football. We gotta run the ball, it’s what we do.”
In the second quarter, UF held possession of the ball for about seven minutes and scored a touchdown from a short pass about two minutes in. GS scored with about two minutes remaining, from a 45-yard run by Ellison on a breakaway tackle. It cut away at the deficit and gave GS a much needed confidence boost.
In the first quarter, UF started Mornhinweg who made one previous start on the season. In the first three minutes of play, UF marched down the field into the red zone thanks to a 33-yard run from Kevin Taylor. In the next minute, UF got on the board after settling for a field goal. This has been a pattern under Muschamp, as the Gators score less than 50% of the time when in the end zone this season. GS received the ball with about eight minutes remaining in the period and had a successful slew of runs. The veterans on the GS offensive line were an advantage for the team, but when punter Luke Cherry had his punt muffed at the three minute mark around the 35-yard line, UF capitalized on the mistake and increased their lead to ten right at the end of the quarter.
Throughout the entire first half, UF averaged less than four yards on first down plays. Mornhinweg went 4 for 10 and had a total of six yards and one touchdown. GS’ Ellison ran eight times for 85 yards with a touchdown under his sleeve.
Banks, Ellison and McKinnon accounted for all three GS touchdowns.
With the victory, GS finishes with a 7-4 overall record and UF drops to 4-7 with rival Florida State coming to town next week.
Amanda Arnold, The George-Anne Managing Sports Editor, firstname.lastname@example.org