In what may have been the crucial moment of Saturday's game, Georgia Southern won the toss...and elected to kick. Had the favorite driven it straight down the underdog's throat, the result might have been different. As it was, Whipple was permitted the opening statement. Two days before the game he had told his players the name of the play they would be running to start the game. They had been preparing it since August. "We called it Chattanooga," Whipple said. Bankhead went to the shotgun, both backs moved up and to the right, the left-side wideout backed off the line and moved to the right; the right guard and tackle and right-side receiver shifted right. The receiver in the backfield went in motion. The ensuing pass to the tight end gained only four yards, but the weird formation alone rattled the No. 1 team.
The underdog, by contrast, was supremely focused, moving down the field as if in its two-minute offense. Whipple was calling the plays from the sideline without conference, without so much as a play card. On defense UMass recovered six fumbles and intercepted a pass. Three of those loose balls were picked up by sophomore linebacker Kole Ayi, including one in the first quarter that he ran in from the nine-yard line for a touchdown. The Minutemen successfully faked a punt at midfield while leading by 10 points in the second quarter and went on to score. They then threatened an onside kick, forcing a Georgia Southern timeout. With 4:09 left in the first half, UMass was ahead 38-14, having held Peterson to 33 yards and two fumbles.
Georgia Southern, which would end up outgaining UMass 595 yards to 462, closed to 38-33 at the start of the fourth quarter. Whipple merely adjusted again. He ordered handoffs to Shipp, who rushed for a championship game-record 244 yards while padding his team's lead and running out the clock.
"This is just one of the unbelievable turnarounds in the history of college football," said UMass athletic director Bob Marcum. Best of all, from the Minutemen's point of view, it happened just before Christmas, a time when virtually all the major colleges have already hired or retained their head coaches for next season. Which means that Whipple should be back at UMass for at least one more season—a sequel to the miracle—before his inevitable graduation to a job in Division I-A.