Georgia Southern’s players sprinted into the south end zone in celebration after the Eagles finished their 45-42 upset of three-touchdown-favorite Nebraska on Saturday night. Meanwhile, in the southeast corner of Memorial Stadium, the student section was chanting “Fire Frost, Fire Frost, Fire Frost.”
Kyle Vantrease scored on an 8-yard run with 36 seconds left after Nebraska had taken its first lead, and after Casey Thompson moved the Huskers into field-goal range, Timmy Bleekrode was wide left with a 52-yard attempt as time ran out. The victory, the Eagles’ first in 13 games against Power Five opponents, came with a $1.423 million guarantee paid by Nebraska. And it happened almost a year to the day that Southern California fired Clay Helton two games into his seventh season. Helton was hired last November to take over a Georgia Southern program that went 3-9 and lost six of its last seven games last season. “What a special night,” Helton said. “So proud of our kids, especially when you come off the season where you just win three games and you’ve got a new collection of people. You watch them come together and watch them starting to believe in themselves and believe in each other.”
The loss again turns up the pressure on embattled Nebraska coach Scott Frost, who faces a home game next week against No. 7 Oklahoma. The Huskers (1-2) had come into the Georgia Southern game 214-0 when scoring at least 35 points at Memorial Stadium. Frost lost to a Sun Belt Conference team for the second time in his five seasons, and he and his players are bracing for a week of negativity from one of college football’s most ardent fan bases. “Got to make sure it doesn’t seep into players. I haven’t listened to any of it for a long time. Got to make sure they don’t,” Frost said. “There are a lot of games left in the season and this group can do well.”
The Eagles (2-0) piled up 642 yards, none bigger than the 75 they moved in 11 plays for the winning touchdown. Kyle Vantrease converted a fourth-and-2 pass and threw 27 yards to Khaleb Hood before he took off up the middle on a designed quarterback run for the go-ahead score. Thompson moved the Huskers from their 23 to the Eagles’ 34 before Bleekrode pulled his field-goal try to the left. “We kind of felt that it might be a shootout and that whoever had the ball last, it might go their way,” Helton said. “We had just enough time left on that clock to be able to score, and I was holding my breath on their last drive when they had. The good Lord was watching after us.”
Nebraska had taken the lead on Thompson’s 1-yard run with 3:05 left after Marques Buford’s second interception of the game turned back the Eagles as they tried to build on a three-point lead. Thompson led the Huskers 98 yards in 15 plays. Thompson and Anthony Grant churned out yards on the ground and Marcus Washington made a catch at the 1 that was upheld on video review before Thompson went over the pile at the goal line. Vantrease, who was quarterback for Buffalo when it lost at Nebraska last year, was 37 of 56 for 409 yards. Gerald Green ran for 132 yards and two touchdowns and Jalen Allen had 85 yards and two scores.
Thompson ran for three touchdowns and was 23 of 34 for 318 yards and a score. Grant carried 27 times for 138 yards and a score. “We win together and lose together,” Frost said. “All of us are frustrated after that one. Give them credit, give Clay credit. We can’t let it divide us.”
Georgia Southern: The Eagles began their transition from the Championship Subdivision to the Bowl Subdivision in 2013, the same year they beat Florida for their only other win over a Power Five team.
Nebraska: Frost’s hot seat is hotter than ever. His contract buyout drops from $15 million to $7.5 million on Oct. 1.
Georgia Southern: Visits UAB on Saturday.
Nebraska: Hosts No. 7 Oklahoma on Saturday in a meeting of old Big Eight/Big 12 rivals.