Behind the leg of kicker Sean Ianno, the Roadrunners overcame a 14-0 deficit to win in overtime, 17-14, over the Georgia State Panthers Saturday at the Alamodome.
“You have to learn how to win,” Head Coach Larry Coker said following the victory.
For the young Roadrunners, it was a milestone victory that showed the perseverance of the team. It was the first example this season of the team rallying in the face of defeat to win.
“To come back from our backs being against the wall, this was a terrific win,” Coker said. “Now we have to build on it.”
From the opening kick it was apparent that this game would be a close, hard-fought contest. Through the first quarter, both teams were unable to get anything going, let alone score. The Roadrunners looked like they might take an early lead as they took the opening drive all the way to the Panther’s 10-yard line before Eric Soza threw an interception to Georgia State’s Jake Muasau.
A scoreless first quarter was followed by a completely different second quarter. The Roadrunners opened the quarter with the ball but were forced to punt to Georgia State. The Panthers got the ball at their own 3-yard line before they proceeded to march the ball 97 yards and put the first points on the board, by way of a 24-yard run that put the Panthers up 7-0.
The Roadrunner offense failed to respond when Ianno’s 50-yard field goal attempt fell just below the crossbar.
The Panthers took over at their own 33. Two plays later, their quarterback Kelton Hill burned the Roadrunners’ secondary worse than General Sherman burned Atlanta and found Albert Wilson all alone for a 56-yard touchdown that put the Panthers up 14-0.
The Roadrunners would salvage a field goal before the end of the first half to go into the dressing room down 14-3.
A scoreless third quarter came and went, with the Roadrunners holding the ball to start the fourth quarter. A minute into the quarter, the Roadrunners’ Chris Johnson scampered into the promised-land and cut the Panther advantage down to 14-9. Coker elected to go for a two-point conversion and Soza rewarded the call when he found Brandon Freeman in the endzone to cut the lead to 14-11.
The remainder of the fourth quarter saw both teams swapping the ball as the Roadrunner offense had trouble getting things going, but the defense, when they had to, stood strong and defended their turf.
A missed Georgia State field goal gave the Roadrunners the ball with two minutes left, down by three.
“I thought we played really well,” Roadrunner Defensive Coordinator Neal Neathery said. “It showed a lot of character for them to regroup like that at halftime.”
With the game on the line, Soza looked confident in the pocket as he led the troops down the field and got them to within field goal range. Ianno stepped up with 24 seconds left in the game and drilled a 39 yarder through the uprights to tie the game and force overtime.
The Roadrunners won the toss in overtime and elected to play defense first. The Panthers got nothing on the inspired Roadrunner defense and missed a field goal on fourth down. Again Soza moved the ball a little closer and gave Ianno a 32 yard attempt that he booted through the upright to give the Roadrunners the victory.
“I can usually tell just by the way it feels coming off my foot,” Ianno said. “When I looked up just to be sure, it was the best feeling in the world.”
The Roadrunners improved to 3-5 with the victory. They will have a bye week before heading to Lake Charles, La on Nov. 12 to face the McNeese State Cowboys.