By Craig Haley, FCS Executive Director
Boone, NC (Sports Network) - Chalk it up as just another Saturday afternoon in the Southern Conference.
The Appalachian State Mountaineers certainly felt that way.
For the second straight year on Saturday, the FCS' No. 1-ranked team lost on the road in the bitter Appalachian State-Georgia Southern rivalry, and this time it was the Mountaineers who enjoyed the home cooking by posting a 24-17 win over GSU.
Wide receiver Brian Quick caught two of Jamal Jackson's three touchdown passes, including a game-winning 15-yarder to break a 17-17 deadlock with 9:24 left. Quick finished with four receptions for 119 yards and went over 3,000 career receiving yards.
The fifth-ranked Mountaineers (6-2, 4-1) handed GSU (7-1, 5-1) its first loss of the season and opened up the Southern Conference title race. The Eagles still have to go to Wofford (6-2, 4-1) on Nov. 12.
If ASU doesn't lose again, it will claim at least a share of its seventh straight conference title, which would be a SoCon record.
"At the end of the day, they still have to come play us no matter if they're No. 1 or whatever number they are," said Quick, an NFL prospect whose 3,056 career yards leaves him just 68 shy of the ASU record of 3,124, set by Rick Beasley from 1978-80.
"We didn't really see them as No. 1. We see them as a great team like all of our Southern Conference games because all of our teams are good in our conference. We see them as another team that we had to defeat. We're trying to get a ring and they were in our way."
The new No. 1 in The Sports Network/Fathead.com FCS Top 25 on Monday is expected to be North Dakota State (8-0), one of two unbeaten teams remaining in the FCS. The No. 3 Bison topped No. 2 Northern Iowa, 27-19, on Saturday in Fargo, N.D.
The Bison won't mind thanking Appalachian State ... as well as the NFL-bound Quick.
ASU then withstood a serious GSU scoring threat. Eagles safety Laron Scott returned an interception of Jackson to the Mountaineers' 9 with 9:24 left, but the ASU defense stopped the visitors on downs.
GSU's run of 13 wins in 14 games had begun last year with a 21-14 overtime win over ASU in Statesboro. Since then, the Eagles had lost only to Delaware in the 2010 FCS semifinals.
"Well, there was a goal to beat App," GSU head coach Jeff Monken said. "Unfortunately, we didn't get that done. But we're still in the hunt for a SoCon championship, fortunately. Everybody in the league has at least one loss. But the only way we're going to stay in the hunt is by winning next week."
ASU won by pulling the carpet from underneath GSU's vaunted triple option. The Eagles, who entered the game averaging a nation's best 44.6 points and 369.7 rushing yards, were held to 135 yards on 51 carries.
It was a different ASU defense than the one that was steamrolled by Wofford's wishbone for 388 rushing yards in a 28-14 loss earlier in the month.
Linebackers Jeremy Kimbrough and Brandon Grier gobbled up 16 and 14 tackles, respectively, and Ronald Blair and the defensive front took away the GSU dive.
"I think the intensity level was where it needed to be," ASU head coach Jerry Moore said. "That was the main ingredient."
GSU played from behind for much of the game after having trailed for less than three minutes in its first seven games combined - a 7-0 first-quarter deficit against Elon.
The Eagles came back from a 17-3 deficit to tie the game at 17-17 when Darreion Robinson scored on a 46-yard punt return with 13:59 left in the game. He was nearly knocked to the ground, but used his left hand to keep himself up and then emerged from a crowd of would-be tacklers.
Earlier, GSU cut into a 17-3 halftime deficit by scoring on its first possession of the third quarter. J.J. Wilcox scored from three yards out on a pitch to pull the Eagles within 17-10 with 6:12 left.
But playing from behind must have been unsettling for the Eagles.
McCray set up ASU's first score when he picked off GSU quarterback Jaybo Shaw on the game's opening drive at his team's 37. The Mountaineers offense then rolled into the Eagles' end zone in six plays, capped by Andrew Peacock's 25- yard catch-and-run from Jackson for a touchdown with 10:14 left.
Late in the first half, McCray made a spectacular leaping interception of Shaw at the ASU 20. That play was then topped by an even more spectacular 56-yard touchdown bomb from Jackson to Quick down the ASU sideline for a 17-3 Mountaineers' lead with only 16.7 seconds left in the second quarter.
"We've come back strong," from the Wofford loss, Quick said. "That's what makes us hungry as a team.
With the win, ASU extended its series lead to 14-12-1. It also improved to 3-5 all-time against No. 1 teams.