Sun Belt Week 7 Recap- Georgia Southern vs. #25 James Madison

Photo Cred: ESPN

What an afternoon it was for the Eagles! What a way for me to start off my recap series of Georgia Southern as well! I mentioned in my Week 7 Sun Belt Conference recap that this game was my game of the week. It was like a David vs. Goliath battle here. A team that was previously 0-2 in the conference and 3-3 overall against an upstart former FCS team in its first-ever FBS season that was undefeated. James Madison (JMU) was having an unbelievable year, with five straight wins including four by multiple scores. They hadn’t had less than 32 points during this stretch, which led them to get ranked as the 25th-best team in the nation! There was a lot on the line for both teams, so let’s dig in to see how it all unraveled.

Photo Cred: ClutchPoints

First Quarter Highs and Lows

Georgia Southern (GASO) had a slow start to the game. Three straight punts with only one first down on a combined total of 23 yards. On defense, they allowed JMU to march down the field on all three possessions. On three red zone trips, the Dukes came away with 14 points and an INT. Without that timely pick by DB Tyler Bride, maybe GASO would be looking at a 21-0 hole… The Eagles, while getting that one INT, were not able to capitalize on it and allowed for that second JMU TD to be scored.

Photo Cred:

Meanwhile, the Dukes were firing early on all cylinders. QB Todd Centeio, RB Percy Agyei-Obese, and WR Reggie Brown all had some key drive-extending plays. Centeio put JMU on top with two rushing TDs (13 and 17 yards). The defense had done enough to stop GASO and JMU was also helped by a key penalty early on GASO DB Anthony Wilson. A personal foul pushed back GASO 10 yards, thus limiting Bride’s 32-yard return after his INT.

Georgia Southern Wakes Up!

Eagles fans were able to rejoice in the second quarter, as their team was able to get points on two straight TDs. Down 14-0, QB Kyle Vantrease targeted WR Jeremy Singleton for 60 yards on their first second-quarter drive. WR Amare Jones capped it off with a 13-yard TD. GASO DL Justin Ellis and LB Jalen Jackson were able to get a key nine-yard split sack on JMU’s next drive. WR Joshua Thompson then blocked a punt, which landed in the end zone, and he pounced on it to tie the game at 14.

Photo Cred: The Seattle Times

The Dukes seemed unfazed, however, as they again went into the GASO red zone. That made it four red zone appearances on five drives, and this one was fruitful too. While they didn’t get a TD sitting at the GASO nine-yard line, a 26-yard FG gave them a 17-14 lead.

A Tale of Misses

One GASO punt later, both teams had multiple missed opportunities to end the half. The Dukes got to the GASO 31-yard line and went for it on a fourth-and-four. While they could not convert it, they got the ball back two plays later. Vantrease got intercepted while on his own 41-yard line. The good news for the Eagles was that the defender, CB Jordan Swann, stumbled seven yards backward. This put Centeio and the JMU offense on their own 28-yard line.

Photo Cred: Yahoo! Sports

This is a key bit of information because the Dukes got intercepted three plays later. Unfortunately for JMU, a tipped ball by DL LJ McCloud kept the ball in its own territory, thus giving GASO some good field position. It seemed like the drive was going nowhere until S Chris Chukwuneke handed the Eagles a lifeline. A holding call by him on Singleton on third-and-10 extended the drive. However, the furthest GASO could go was to the JMU 22-yard line. K Alex Raynor then ended up missing the game-tying 39-yard FG. Did I mention that the last three plays occurred in just 1:26?

Time to Rev It Up!

And rev it up they did, both teams. GASO tried to be a bit cheeky with a squib kick on the opening kickoff. However, it backfired, as LB Marques Watson-Trent was called offside. JMU got the ball at the GASO 36-yard line and scored in three plays. Centeio got his third rushing TD of the game, this time for 10 yards. Vantrease responded with a 75-yard bomb to Jones, who was sandwiched between CB Chauncey Logan and S Sam Kidd. Jones caught the ball around the JMU 41-yard line and took off for another 34 yards after the catch. The score now stood at 24-21, JMU leading.

Photo Cred: James Madison University Athletics

The Dukes managed to get into GASO territory once again but came up empty-handed this time around. A fourth-and-three at the GASO 18-yard line resulted in another turnover on downs. After two back-to-back punts by GASO and JMU, it was time for the Eagles to turn up the heat again. With the ball at the JMU 45-yard line, a jet sweep by Jones and a horse collar tackle penalty got GASO to the JMU five-yard line. However, the JMU defense stood strong and only allowed 20-yard game-tying FG.

Photo Cred: Action Network

Another JMU punt allowed the Eagles to gain their first lead of the game. A nine-play, 86-yard drive resulted in a 37-yard receiving TD by RB Jalen White. Then, a key fumble recovered by Bride kept the ball in JMU territory and Raynor hit a 41-yard FG. GASO now led 34-24 with 14:52 left in the fourth quarter.

Photo Cred: Yahoo! Sports

What. An. Ending!

Seems like both teams still left some magic for the last quarter. This game just seemed destined to be a thriller from start to finish! The Eagles and Dukes traded punts, but GASO took 5:01 off the clock during their drive. Despite P Anthony Beck II getting JMU to their nine-yard line, it took all of three plays and 57 seconds for the Dukes to add their fourth TD of the game. Vantrease then drove GASO to the six-yard line in JMU territory, but the Eagles had to settle yet again with 24-yard FG.

Photo Cred: YouTube

The situation now stands at GASO leading 37-31 with 3:53 left. Still plenty of time left for the Dukes to run out the clock and score. If GASO had a little luck with them, the game may have ended earlier than it did. Despite failing on two previous fourth downs, JMU held their nerve by converting a fourth-and-nine at their own 26-yard line. A third-and-short in GASO territory also could not be stopped, and JMU got the required 46 yards needed to reach the end zone.

Each Team’s Last Drives

Now, we have 2:28 on the clock and JMU is leading 38-37. Early into GASO’s second play, JMU DL Jamare Edwards was called for an offsides penalty, but GASO still had to convert a third down to extend the game. Three straight Vantrease incompletions resulted in a fourth-and-10, another example of a game-ender not being stopped. WR Khaleb Hood got a 14-yard completion to keep things going for the Eagles. Two plays later, WR Derwin Burgess Jr. caught a 22-yard pass for a TD, and that’s when pandemonium ensued.

Photo Cred: Statesboro Herald

Logan was called for a defensive pass interference call that was declined, which was just the first of four penalties that would occur in a matter of seconds. GASO WR Khaleb Hood was in trouble too, as he got an unsportsmanlike conduct call which would be enforced on the kickoff. GASO needed to go for two in order to keep this a one-possession game. Vantrease tried to dive for the score in the end zone but DL James Carpenter forced a fumble that was recovered by S Jarius Reimonenq. However, nothing came to be of it, as there was a holding penalty and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the play against JMU. Getting a chance to go for two again, RB Jalen White was able to get in this time around.

Photo Cred: Savannah Morning News

Due to the penalty on Hood, GASO had to kick from their own 20-yard line instead of the 35-yard line. After a 25-yard return on a 52-yard kick, JMU was at their own 38-yard line. In three plays, he got to the GASO 38-yard line. However, that was the end of the line, as DB Anthony Wilson intercepted Centeio. Game over, GASO wins 45-38 in a thriller all the way!

Photo Cred: The San Diego Union-Tribune

Notable Parts of the Game

  • JMU WR Kris Thornton joined WR Reggie Brown in getting a 100-yard receiving game.
  • JMU WR Terrance Greene Jr. caught the other TD pass from Centeio.
  • For GASO, WRs Hood and Singleton also had 100-yard receiving games.
  • Other than GASO WRs Jones and Burgess Jr., it was RB Jalen White who had an offensive TD.
  • While FGs on the two turnover-on-downs would not have won JMU the game, it would’ve still been a one-point loss for them rather than seven points.
  • Despite outgaining GASO (675 to 590 yards) and having the ball longer (32:30 to 27:30), JMU could not win.
  • Penalties were big enough factors too. JMU had the most (10) while GASO lost the most yardage (75).
  • The Dukes had more first downs (31 to 29) and were more efficient on third downs (7/16 to 6/18). However, fourth downs got them bad (1/3) and GASO converted their only fourth down opportunity.

Photo Cred: Idaho State Journal                                  Photo Cred: News4JAX

Statistical Leaders


Passing– JMU QB Todd Centeio (28/48, 468 yds, two TDs, three INTs), GASO QB Kyle Vantrease (38/64, 578 yds, four TDs, one INT).

Rushing– JMU RB Percy Agyei-Obese (18 rushes, 106 yds), JMU QB Centeio (12 rushes, 44 yds, three TDs), GASO RB Jalen White (11 rushes, 20 yds).

Had to mention Centeio’s three rushing TDs.

Receiving– JMU WR Reggie Brown (eight rec, 136 yds, one TD), GASO WR Amare Jones (seven rec, 164 yds, two TDs).



JMU: S Sam Kidd (10 TKs, one TFL, one PD), S Chris Chukwuneke (two TFLs, four TKs, one PD), LB Taurus Jones (two PDs, seven TKs, 0.5 TFL), CB Chauncey Logan (two PDs, four TKs), DL Abi Nwabuoku-Okonji (two QB HURs, three TKs).

GASO: DB Derrick Canteen (12 TKs, one TFL, three PDs, one QB HUR), DL Latrell Bullard (two TFLs, two TKs), DL LJ McCloud (one QB HUR, four TKs, one PD).

SKs/INTs/FFs/FRs/TDs– JMU CB Jordan Swann (one INT, seven TKs, 0.5 TFL), GASO DB Canteen (one SK), GASO DB Anthony Wilson (one SK, one INT, 11 TKs, one TFL), GASO LB Reid Dedman (one FF, seven TKs), GASO DB Tyler Bride (one INT, one FR, three TKs, two PDs), GASO DL Dillon Springer (one INT, five TKs).

Notable Special Teams

JMU RB/KR Sammy Malignaggi (four returns, 96 yds, 31 LONG), JMU P Sam Clark (three punts, 134 yds, two IN 20s), GASO WR Joshua Thompson (one TD- blocked punt), GASO K Alex Raynor (3/4 FG, 4/4 XP), GASO P Anthony Beck II (six punts, 275 yds, four IN 20s, 59 LONG).

Malignaggi did ok with his KRets. Clark being able to have two IN 20s is notable. The biggest play of the day was the blocked punt by Thompson on special teams. Raynor may have missed a FG in what could’ve been a crucial situation but had an otherwise solid day. Beck II had a great punting performance, one of the best of the week.

Next Games:

a) Georgia Southern: @ Old Dominion on October 22nd at 3:30 PM ET.

b) James Madison: vs. Marshall on October 22nd at 3:30 PM ET (Homecoming).

Non-conference Game(s) Remaining:

a) Georgia Southern: None.

b) James Madison: Louisville.

JMU only has three non-conference games, compared to four for the 13 other Sun Belt teams.


Photo Cred: ESPN                                      Photo Cred: James Madison University Athletics

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