STATESBORO –Jjay Mcafee scored the go-ahead touchdown midway through the fourth quarter, and Kyle Vantrease hooked up with Amare Jones for a 47-yard touchdown pass with 1:40 remaining to seal the deal as Georgia Southern topped Ball State 34-23 Saturday evening in Paulson Stadium.
Eagles of the Game:
Derwin Burgess Jr. finished with 133 receiving yards on five catches, and Jones collected 94 yards on seven receptions along with the big touchdown. Vantrease finished with 310 passing yards to go along with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Jalen White ran for 69 yards, and Gerald Green rushed for 38 yards and a TD. Four Eagles had 10 tackles with Derrick Canteen tallying nine solo stops, a tackle for loss and two pass breakups.
Leading 27-23, the Georgia Southern defense got off the field on 3rd-and-10, rallying to make a tackle on Brady Hunt short of the first-down marker. The Eagle offense ran four straight times before Vantrease found Khaleb Hood for a 5-yard gain to set up 4th-and-1 from the GS 35-yard line with 3:23 to go.
The Eagles elected to go for it, and Vantrease took the snap, hesitated a moment and then dove to the right, picking up the first down with a 4-yard gain. The Eagles faced 3rd-and-8 with 1:45 left when Vantrease found Jones all alone for the big touchdown strike.
Ball State (1-3) drove down to the Eagle 27-yard line on its ensuing possession, but Justin Birdsong picked off a John Paddock pass at the 1-yard line with 1:01 left to effectively end the contest.
Georgia Southern trailed 23-20 2:21 into the fourth quarter, but the Eagle defense forced Ball State to go 3-and-out and help give the offense the ball on the Cardinal 43-yard line.
GS (3-1) moved down to the Ball State 7-yard line where Mcafee caught a short pass from Vantrease, went around the right side and dove for the pile on, clipping it with the ball for a touchdown. Alex Raynor made good on the point after to give the Eagles a 27-23 cushion with 7:04 to play. Vantrease connected with Jones for a 12-yard gain on 3rd-and-8 to key the scoring drive.
Key Stats and Notes:
- It was the first football meeting between Ball State and Georgia Southern.
- Georgia Southern improved to 31-9 on Homecoming in the modern era.
- Georgia Southern now boasts a 126-17 all-time record at Paulson Stadium in non-conference contests.
- The Eagles posted a 3-1 non-conference record in 2022.
- GS gave up its first sack of the season and has only allowed one in four games.
The Eagles open Sun Belt Conference play at Coastal Carolina next Saturday, Oct. 1, and kickoff is set for 4 p.m. on ESPN+.