Georgia State football (1-2) faced long odds yesterday in the Georgia Dome against a Jacksonville State team ranked fourth in the FCS (formerly Division 1-AA). Yes, the Panthers did lose 34-27 in overtime and Georgia State fans have become all too used to moral “victories” through the years. However, a brand new football program, still having that new car smell, and playing in only its third game gave the experienced and talented Gamecocks (3-0) all they could handle.
In overtime and after JSU scored a touchdown after four rushing plays, backup redshirt freshman quarterback Kelton Hill threw a pass deep into the end zone on fourth down from the 2-yard line that appeared to have been caught by junior tight end Arthur Williams. After one official initially ruled a touchdown, several officials then huddled and determined that Williams caught the ball after his left foot and right knee were on the chalk line. Game over.
Jacksonville State had Georgia State on the ropes numerous times during this game, but GSU continually persevered until the end.
First time on the ropes was on the Gamecocks’ opening drive when junior quarterback Marques Ivory completed four passes in a row for 54 yards to methodically get his team inside GSU’s 10-yard line; inexplicably, JSU head coach Jack Crowe then ran the ball three times for little gain and only a 20-yard field goal resulted.
Second time on the ropes was when Jacksonville State continued to pass the ball well on their second drive. The Gamecocks drove 82 yards on 11 plays and scored on a 4-yard pass from Ivory to senior running back Jamal Young on the first play of the second quarter. At that time, JSU had run 24 plays to GSU’s three and had a 13:34 possession time to the Panthers’ 1:26.
Even though they were only down 10-7, would Georgia State’s defense wilt under all this pressure as they did last week against Lambuth? But then redshirt freshman quarterback Drew Little continued to throw the ball with poise and precision on GSU’s next drive. The Panthers almost consumed four minutes before senior kicker Iain Vance kicked a 39-yard field goal to knot the score 10-10.
In the third quarter, another Vance field goal brought Georgia State within 17-13, but bad field possession and a failed fake GSU punt led to what might have been the third time on the ropes. The Gamecocks took over at GSU’s 32-yard line. They quickly moved the ball and got a first down at GSU’s 4, but had to settle for another field goal and a 20-13 lead.
The score soon was 20-20 when redshirt freshman running back Travis Evans ran the ball 46 yards, the longest run given up by JSU this season. Each team then exchanged a touchdown with Georgia State’s game-tying drive lasting 5:29 and covering 75 yards and 13 plays, with Little scoring on a keeper.
The fourth time on the ropes seemed to be the final seconds of regulation. Jacksonville State moved the ball down to Georgia State’s 22 with one timeout remaining and under 20 seconds to play. Instead of letting the clock run down and calling for a timeout for a field goal, the Gamecocks ran a play that allowed the clock to run out.
Yes, Georgia State was helped by 13 Jacksonville State penalties, but the Panthers were supposed to be the team that would give in and implode under pressure. The 16,128 in attendance rooting for GSU went home disappointed but proud. Their team showed heart.