Release from Georgia State Athletics:
Nick Arbuckle passed for 313 yards and three touchdowns, including two to tight end Keith Rucker, but the Panthers fell to UL Lafayette 23-21 Saturday at the Georgia Dome. ULL kicked the go-ahead field goal with seven minutes left.
The Georgia State (2-6, 1-3 Sun Belt) defense turned in a strong effort, holding ULL (4-4, 3-1 Sun Belt) to 307 total yards and 16 offensive points despite playing without starting inside linebackers Joseph Peterson and Trey Payne. Peterson is the Panthers’ leading tackler and top defensive player.
After Rucker caught touchdown passes of eight and three yards in the first half, Georgia State took a 21-17 lead on Arbuckle’s 3-yard touchdown pass to Donovan Harden with five minutes left in the the third quarter.
ULL pulled within 21-20 on Stevie Artigue’s 49-yard field goal late in the third quarter, and then Atrigue’s third field goal, a 21-yarder, put the Ragin’ Cajuns ahead. The score came after Georgia State’s failed fake punt attempt gave ULL the ball at the GSU 23-yard line.
After Artigue missed a final field goal attempt with 2:47 left, the Panthers moved to the GSU 41, but Arbuckle was intercepted at the ULL 42.
“I am very disappointed in the result today. We had our opportunities and didn’t start well nor finish the way we wanted to. As a result, we came out two points short.”
Georgia State fell behind early after allowing a field goal on ULL’s opening possession. Then when the Panthers were forced to punt on their opening drive, ULL’s Travis Crawford blocked the punt and Montrel Carter recovered for a touchdown and a 10-0 Cajuns’ lead.
Trailing 10-0 midway through the first quarter, Georgia state got on the board with a seven-play, 67-yard drive. Arbuckle sparked the march with a 32-yard third-down pass to Hart that moved the Panthers to the UL 27. A 22-yard completion over the middle to Smith gave the Panthers a first-and-goal at the 8-yard line, and on the next play, Arbuckle found Rucker in the middle of the end zone for the 8-yard touchdown.
A ULL touchdown pushed the Cajuns’ advantage to 17-7, but early in the second quarter, Baker intercepted backup quarterback Jalen Nixon to give the Panthers possession at their own 24 and start another touchdown drive.
On back-to-back plays, Kirk 13 yards and then 33 yards down to the ULL 3. That’s when Rucker made his spectacular, one-handed catch in the end zone for the 3-yard touchdown, pulling GSU within 17-14.
Georgia state took the lead lead on its second possession of the second half, moving 86 yards on 12 plays. Robert Davis had a nice catch of his own for a third down conversion on the drive, and Penny Hart’s 21-yard catch down to the 3 set up Harden’s 3-yard touchdown catch to put the Panthers up 21-17 with five minutes left in the third quarter.
Rucker finished with six catches for 51 yards along with his two scores, but he left the game with an injury in the third quarter while making his sixth catch. The GSU tight end has scored two touchdowns in back-to-back games.
Hart had five catches for 97 yards, Harden had five for 42 yards, and Davis aded four receptions for 86 yards.
Demarcus Kirk rushed for 85 yards on 14 carries.
Baker’s interception is his third of the season, tying the GSU season record. He and linebacker Kaleb Ringer, who filled in for Payne, had 10 tackles each.