ATHENS — Sony Michel ran for a 25-yard touchdown on Georgia’s only overtime play, leading the Bulldogs to a 23-17 win over Georgia Southern on Saturday night.
Michel ran straight through the line and scored high-stepping into the end zone as Georgia (8-3) survived the upset bid by Georgia Southern (7-3). Michel had 23 carries for 132 yards.
Leonard Floyd was in on three tackles for losses on Georgia Southern’s overtime possession, including L.A. Ramsby’s loss of three yards on a fourth-and-1 direct snap.
Georgia Southern led 14-7 and 17-14 but was denied its first win in the in-state rivalry. Georgia is 6-0 against the Eagles, the former FCS team now playing in the Sun Belt Conference.
Caleb Williams’ 65-yard fumble return for a touchdown gave Georgia Southern a 14-7 lead early in the second half. Michel handed off to Isaiah McKenzie after taking a direct snap, and McKenzie fumbled when hit by linebacker Antwione Williams.
The Bulldogs took advantage of another turnover to tie the game. After calling for a fair catch on a Georgia punt, Derek Keaton lost the ball and Kenneth Towns recovered the fumble at the Georgia Southern 29. Terry Godwin’s diving 12-yard catch from Greyson Lambert tied the game. The ball appeared to bounce up as Godwin hit the ground.
Georgia Southern coach Willie Fritz was on the field, apparently wanting officials to take another look at Godwin’s catch, as Marshall Morgan kicked the tying extra point.
The Eagles took a 17-14 lead on a 48-yard field goal by Younghoe Koo early in the fourth quarter. Morgan’s 43-yard field goal about 3 minutes later again tied the game at 17-all.
Georgia took the opening kickoff and looked like it was headed for an offensive revival. Reggie Davis returned the kickoff to the 39, and the Bulldogs covered 61 yards in seven plays. Lambert completed each of his three passes on the drive and Isaiah McKenzie scored on a 23-yard run.
The Bulldogs appeared capable of building a bigger lead when they threatened to score on their third possession. Instead, Malcolm Mitchell fumbled after running for 16 yards to the Georgia Southern 8, and Darrius White recovered for the Eagles.
The lost turnover seemed to drain all the momentum from the Bulldogs, who managed only two first downs in a scoreless second quarter.
Slowly, Georgia Southern’s spread-option attack began to have more success, especially on late option pitches from quarterbacks Kevin Ellison and Favian Upshaw.
The Eagles’ first possession of the second quarter ended with a missed 31-yard field goal by Koo. After Morgan returned the favor by missing a 48-yard field goal, Georgia Southern finally tied the game.
Matt Breida reversed field on a 23-yard run to the 1 and then scored by leaping over the line for a 7-all tie.