By BUD L. ELLIS
The Brunswick News
Never before in the nine-year history of the Sea Island Co. Golden Isles Bowl Classic has 60 minutes of football not decided the outcome.
Never before in the game's history have there been more turnovers.
And never before has there been such an exciting finish.
Snow College of Utah traveled more than 1,700 miles for Saturday's contest at Glynn County Stadium against Georgia Military College. And it seemed they had to go that far to rally from a 14-point first-quarter deficit, but the No. 6-ranked Badgers did in winning 27-21 in overtime, in front of an estimated crowd of 4,500.
"It's been a great year for us," said Snow quarterback Jason Coutts, who passed for 272 yards and two touchdowns, and scored on a 5-yard run for the game-winner in overtime. "This is the way we wanted to go out."
Certainly, the same cannot be said for Georgia Military, which lost in its seventh Golden Isles Bowl appearance. The Bulldogs (8-3), ranked No. 11 in the nation, stormed to a 21-7 lead with three touchdowns in a seven-minute span of the first quarter, then proceeded to lose four fumbles, two which set up Snow's two second-half touchdowns.
"We got overconfident," said GMC defensive back Brandon Issac, who won MVP honors for the Bulldogs with a fumble recovery for a touchdown, an interception and four passes defended. "We didn't come out and execute."
Neither team took care of the ball. Snow (9-1) lost six turnovers - three fumbles and three interceptions - as both teams broke the old bowl game record for most fumbles lost (two).
But the Bulldogs' miscues proved most costly after halftime.
In the third quarter, Snow sophomore defensive lineman Dustin Schroader, who won MVP honors for the Badgers with two and one-half sacks, pounced on GMC quarterback Joe Riner's fumble at the Bulldogs' 37.
Seven plays later, sophomore running back Gordon Reid busted in from the 1. The extra point from Joey Mack, the only Georgia player on Snow's roster, pulled the Badgers to within 21-14 with 4:58 left in the quarter.
Still down seven entering the fourth quarter, Snow caught a break when GMC running back Brent Thomas fumbled a pitch, one of seven GMC fumbles. Freshman linebacker Randon Young recovered for Snow at the Bulldogs' 40.
The turnover set up Coutts' 19-yard touchdown pass to sophomore receiver Justin Walker with 9:48 left in regulation. Mack's extra point tied it at 21-21. "Our defense has played great all year," Schroader said. "It just came together for us in the second half."
In overtime, Snow stuffed GMC on four plays. Taking the ball at the 25 and needing only a field goal to score, the Badgers instead pounded it to the 5. From there, Coutts kept on third-and-one, hesitated at the 3, then slipped a tackle and dove head-first across the goal line for the game-winner.
"That final play sums up the kind of heart and desire he has," Snow head coach Jeff Kilts said of Coutts, who finished 22-for-40.
Riner finished 22-for-34 for 292 yards, as both quarterbacks tied the bowl record for most completions set by Jones County's Tim Weathersby in 1998.
GMC had two chances to win the game inside the final two minutes. The Bulldogs
reached the Snow 19 before a sack of Riner by Schroader and sophomore defensive
back Brock Johnson, and a personal foul penalty on GMC, forced the Bulldogs to punt instead of going for a potential game-winning field goal with 1:54 left.
But Coutts was picked off by GMC freshman cornerback Waymon Ford, who made a leaping interception at the Bulldogs' 45 with 1:05 left. The Bulldogs moved to the Badgers' 30, but Snow defensive lineman David Tongolei swatted down Blake Bartol's 47-yard field-goal attempt as the buzzer sounded.
"We battled, regardless of the situation," said GMC head coach Bert Williams. "Whether we were up or down, we played hard."
Early on, the Bulldogs were flying high. Snow scored first, Coutts hitting tight end Logan Hall sliding at the goal line for a 19-yard touchdown with 9:43 left in the opening quarter.
GMC then tied it on its next possession, marching 64 yards in six plays. Riner capped the drive, finding Ford in the corner of the end zone for a 6-yard touchdown. Bartol's extra point tied it at 7-7 with 6:58 left.
The Bulldogs took the lead on a 3-yard touchdown run by Thomas three minutes later, then extended the advantage to 21-7 when Issac fell on a Coutts fumble in the end zone with 29 seconds left in the first quarter.
But the Badgers gathered themselves, and kept the deficit at 14 points until the second half.
- Bud L. Ellis is sports editor of the News. E-mail
him at firstname.lastname@example.org