STATESBORO, Ga. – Appalachian State coach Scott Satterfield initially used the word “goofy” to describe the end of the first half.
His critique might not have been strong enough.
Appalachian claimed a 34-10 victory at Georgia Southern on Thursday after falling behind 10-0 and tying the score late in the second quarter.
Reaching the start of the third quarter was no easy matter. The last 25 seconds of the opening half took 16 maddening minutes in real time thanks to a series of measurements, rule misinterpretations, replay challenges, replay overrules, timeouts and locker room visits.
“Goofy, weird, whatever you want to say,” Satterfield said. “How often do you come off the field twice and come back on and you have to call both teams back from the locker room?”
The crazy sequence began with a second-down rush by Georgia Southern from its 22. Appalachian State declined a holding penalty but exercised its right to have the clock run before the third-down snap.
The clock didn't restart.
Georgia Southern’s third-down carry was ruled a first down after a measurement, but the spot was reviewed, and the ball was eventually moved backward, forcing a fourth down with 21 seconds left. Appalachian called timeout to force a punt.
A fair catch gave the Mountaineers possession at their 34 with 15 seconds left, and Jalin Moore rushed for 18 yards to the Georgia Southern 48 with seven seconds left. An App State player’s helmet came off, leading the referee to announce that a 10-second runoff would end the half.
“We were ready to get to halftime, regroup and come right back out,” Satterfield said.
Both teams left the field and headed toward their locker rooms. They returned when the officiating crew determined that Moore’s clock-stopping first down negated the runoff enforcement, and Georgia Southern called timeout.
App State quarterback Taylor Lamb reached the Georgia Southern 35 on a 13-yard rush that appeared to end the half, and both teams exited the field again.
Not so fast.
As players from both sides came back to the field a second time, an official review determined that Lamb, who had picked up another first down, hit the ground with two seconds left.
The clock would start when an official signaled the ball ready for play, and more Georgia Southern players emerged from the home locker room as App State lined up for a rushed field goal operation. That 53-yard kick from Michael Rubino missed, but it didn't count.
Whistles had blown to signal another Georgia Southern timeout, and even more Eagles returned to the field.
The Mountaineers tried another 53-yard kick, and Georgia Southern blocked that attempt. If holder Bentlee Critcher hadn't recovered the ball, the Eagles might have scored a second touchdown against App State’s field goal unit.
Georgia Southern's 40 offensive yards on 26 first-half plays looked strange enough, but the refs raised the bar by turning the final 25 seconds into a 16-minute debacle.
“We talk to our team all the time about controlling what you can control,” Satterfield said. “You can’t control the uncontrollable, and that’s one of those things that doesn’t faze our guys. We just keep rolling with it.”