After the most significant victory, their first time defeating a top 25 ranked team, the Georgia State Panthers returned home to take on Arkansas State. The concern was whether they would be flat playing emotionally drained or sniffing that good stuff called momentum.
It was an interesting game where the Panthers continued to throw deep despite moving the ball well on short passes and impressive running. They started both halves using the same formula, which led me to believe they were going deep because that was the game plan. Frankly, the football Gods showed a little favor granting pass interference and defensive holding calls that bailed them out of some dark places.
From a cynical perspective, it may look as if they were trying to give it back. Fortunately, reality settled in, and they escaped with the victory 28-20, clinching bowl eligibility for the third consecutive year. In retrospect, they made it more difficult than it had to be, but don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. A win is a win.
The Panthers were first to possess the ball and first to make a mistake ending the opening drive on a fumble. Two drive extending penalties roughing the passer and pass interference set the Panthers up for the first touchdown of the game by Jaymest Williams. The man who started the 11 play 85-yard drive finished it. That was a critical play in the game.
A sack by Thomas Gore kept the momentum brewing as the Panthers asserted themselves with back-to-back touchdown scoring drives was well-timed. Suddenly the score was 14-3, and Arkansas State was starting to resemble the walking wounded. They were staring the Panther right between the eyes. But, unfortunately, Walmart, the owners of the state of Arkansas, couldn’t save them from the beast about to strike.
Just when I thought it was safe to go out, Layne Hatcher connected with Lincoln Pare on a short screen pass. He ran to daylight 83 yards away to the Panther’s endzone, answering the call for a touchdown.
The next drive ended in another fumble by the Panthers. Fortunately, the big left guard Samarious Gilmore 6’3 295 lbs. before lunch, picked up the snack and rumbled 2 yards holding the loaf of bread to save face.
A money pass broke up by Antavious Lane in the corner of the endzone, followed by a juggling act by Travalience Hunt as he tap-danced along the back of the end line as the ball escaped his grasp. Unfortunately, that was another blown opportunity by the 2-8 visitors playing the role of spoiler.
Dontae Wilson broke through the line of protecting, delivering a sack to force a field goal to go in at halftime advantageous 14-13 in favor of the Georgia State Panthers.
It was a rough start to the second half Antavious Lane was called for roughing the passer on 3rd down and 8 that gave life to a dying drive. If that wasn’t bad enough, a defensive holding penalty gifted another ten yards with another automatic first down. Bryquise Brown made the play of the game by intercepting a pass that prevented the go-ahead touchdown for Arkansas State at the one-yard line. That play preserved the lead and stopped the most critical ingredient in college football from swinging to the other side, momentum.
A 48-yard field goal attempt failed to cross the upright by a smidgen. I understand the logic, but the bad news is you bless the opponent with a short field in a one-point game.
Lane Hatcher was protected well by the offensive line, but as time ticked, he panicked and overthrew the intended receiver Tyreke Harrison obliged the interception. The Georgia State Panthers’ faithful celebrated smelling bowl eligibility. But on the next play, Darren Grainger went deep with an underthrown pass intercepted by Samy Johnson, giving the ball back to Arkansas State.
Christmas came at the top of the fourth quarter Jamyest Willams waltzed into the endzone untouched, completing a 13-yard run-scoring the game-sealing touchdown to extend the lead 21-13. Then, Darren Grainger struck at the most opportunistic time on a 35-yard touchdown run which gave them a 28 – 13 lead. Arkansas was stuck on thirteen points for most of the second half, but they had to add more drama in typical Georgia State Panthers fashion. Roger Carter fumbled, Kivon Bennett scooped it up, and dashed 80 yards to make the game relevant at 28-20.
Thank goodness time ran out before the Panthers could figure away to build more suspense to this Bowl Clinching victory. Either way, it goes Head Coach Shawn Elliott has this program headed in the right direction