The Sports Inquirer attended the Sun Belt Media Day presser of New Mexico State football head coach Doug Martin in New Orleans on July 24. Topics included thoughts on the team, seeking improvement from the 2016 campaign and preparing to become an independent program in 2018.
By E. Marcel Pourtout, Editor
After a thrilling 38-37 season-opening victory over Abilene Christian last week, the Georgia State football returns to face fellow Sun Belt Conference member New Mexico State this Saturday at the Georgia Dome. It will be the conference opener for both squads who won their opening week contests.
The Panthers’ victory last week snapped a 16-game losing streak that dated back to October 2012. Georgia State went winless in 12 contests last season.
“There’s a little bit more pep in their step which I think is natural when you win,” coach Trent Miles said. “But we had a pep in our step before the game. It always reinforces and helps and keeps you going in the right direction to win. Especially getting the monkey off your back of not winning for a whole season so obviously they’re bouncing around a little bit.”
Georgia State’s comeback win from nine points down in the fourth quarter was led by quarterback Nick Arbuckle who had a game-high 413 yards passing and four touchdowns.
“When we were down he came back and didn’t lose his composure and made some good decisions with the football and led the team,” Miles said. “He really did some good things with the football and did a great job from the leadership standpoint getting us in the right plays and protections and making good decisions.”
Overall, the Panthers’ offense had a school-record 556 yards of total offense against Abilene Christian.
Georgia State tight end Joel Ruiz caught seven passes for 111 yards and two touchdowns. He received the national honor of being named the John Mackey Tight End of the Week.
Panthers’ wide receivers LynQuez Blair (eight receptions for 118 yards) and Robert Davis (eight receptions for 90 yards) also had strong contests with Blair grabbing a touchdown catch as well.
Georgia State welcomes in a New Mexico State squad that also won its season-opener, a 28-10 home win over Cal Poly last week. Aggies’ freshman running back Larry Rose III ran for 149 yards on 30 carries and scored a touchdown. Quarterback Tyler Rodgers threw for 158 yards and two touchdowns.
“We’re going to be playing against a team that offensively can move the ball against anybody,” Miles said. “ Rose a very versatile back and you’ve got to give his offensive line credit as well for making the holes. We’re going to have our hands full.”
The Panthers will rely on linebackers Joseph Peterson, who collected 11 tackles and an interceptions against Abilene, and Jarrell Robinson who had four tackles for loss, including two sacks in the victory. The coaching staff would like to see improvement from the defensive unit which gave up 400 yards of passing to Abilene.
“As coaches we are always looking for more but I thought the front seven did a great job defending the run but then they were throwing it all over the field,” Miles said. We have a great bunch of coaches and players and we’re going to improve on things for New Mexico State.”
The team’s approach this week hasn’t altered due to playing last Wednesday as opposed to Saturday or having its first conference contest.
“In FBS, you get 12 games and that’s it,” Miles concluded. “Every game is important, every game is approached as the Super Bowl. Every game in college football is huge so there is none bigger than the other for us.”