Release from Georgia State Athletics:
A late rally fell short and Georgia State fell to San Jose State 27-16 in the inaugural AutoNation Cure Bowl on Saturday night. In just their sixth year of existence, the Panthers were making their first bowl appearance in school history.
Sun Belt Player of the Year Nick Arbuckle was held to just 14-of-29 passing for 208 yards and two touchdowns, but still finished the season with a Sun Belt Conference single-season record of 4,368 yards.
Georgia State (6-7) saw its four-game winning streak snapped, while San Jose State improved to 6-7.
With Georgia State trailing 13-7 early in the fourth quarter, Wil Lutz uncorked a 70-yard punt that rolled inside the SJSU 5, and the Panther defense forced a three-and-out. On the Spartans punt from the end zone, a poor snap gave Georgia State a safety, pulling the Panthers within 13-9 with 12:44 left.
After the free kick and a 24-yard return by Donovan Harden, the Panthers took over at the SJSU 36. Arbuckle hit freshman tight end Ari Werts for a first down at the 20, and two plays later Todd Boyd caught a short pass and raced 19 yards for the score. That gave Georgia State its first lead at 16-13 with 10:46 left.
But San Jose State regained the lead with a quick touchdown on a 42-yard touchdown run by quarterback Kenny Potter, moving the Spartans back in front, 20-16, with nine minutes to go.
Georgia State moved to midfield but failed to convert a 3rd-and-one with eight minutes left. The Panthers went for it on fourth down, and freshman receiver Penny Hart got behind the defense, but Arbuckle’s pass was just out of his reach.
“We put the ball in the hands of the best player in our conference, the best player on our offense and on our team – Player of the Year,” head coach Trent Miles said. “We had a guy that was one of the best receivers in the nation running wide open for a touchdown and it just didn’t work. If the ball was about six inches shorter, it’s a touchdown. We’re back in the lead and everybody says what a great play call that was made. But he over threw him, and that’s football.”
The Spartans took over and held the ball for more than five minutes before scoring the clinching touchdown for the final margin.
“Well my hat’s off to San Jose State,” Miles said. “They did an excellent job defensively, stopping us from rushing the ball and throwing the ball, moving the ball. We were unable to convert on third downs. We were one of 10 on third-down conversions. They killed us with the time of possession, and they did an excellent job of getting us off the field offensively. And then at the end, they did what they needed to do to move the ball and score and make it the situation where we didn’t have enough time to come back. So my hat’s off to them, and I’m very proud of our team.”
San Jose State running back Tyler Ervin rushed for 132 yards on 30 carries and had an 85-yard punt return for a touchdown in the first half.
Trailing 10-0 in the second quarter, Georgia State got on the board with a 5-play, 87-yard drive. After Arbuckle opened the drive with a 20-yard completion to freshman tight end Ari Werts, a 29-yard pass to Werts gave the Panthers a first down at the SJSU 38. On the next play, Arbuckle found Harden down the right sideline for a 38-yard touchdown, pulling GSU within 10-7 with seven minutes left in the first half.
On that play, Arbuckle surpassed the Sun Belt season record for passing yards, formerly held by Troy’s Levi Brown (4,254 yards in 2009).
San Jose State struck first on a 19-yard field goal by Austin Lopez after the GSU defense came up with a big third-down stop at the 2-yard line to force the field goal.
But on their ensuing possession, the Panthers came up just short on third down and punted the ball to Ervin, who returned the punt 85 yards for the score and a 10-0 Spartan lead.
Playing for injured all-conference tight end Keith Rucker, Werts finished with three receptions for 63 yards after he had just two catches all season.
When asked what he would remember most about this season, Miles said, “I’m going to remember a bunch of guys that pulled together to take a team that’s been playing FBS football for three years and got themselves from 2-6 to a bowl game. That showed a team that would never quit, never gave up on each other, believed in what was going on. A great group of guys that are still young.”