On offense, Kelton Hill had a career-high 98 yards rushing, including a 52-yard run in the first quarter, with one rushing touchdown, and was 14-for-24 passing with 197 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Wide receiver Danny Williams became the first player in school history to surpass 1,000 career receiving yards and reach 20 straight games with a catch on two catches for 48 yards. Sophomore Albert Wilson brought down seven catches for 89 yards, including one 50 yard reception. Wilson also executed a nifty 22-yard punt return, his only one of the game.
Perhaps the brightest spot for GSU was a nine-play, 80-yard drive just before the end of the first half that culminated in a 31-yard pass reception by Jordan Giles in the corner of the end zone to give GSU a 17-10 lead going into halftime. Donald Russell, who had been the centerpiece of an emerging GSU run game in recent weeks, had eight carries for 19 yards before he was injured in the third quarter and didn’t return. The offense finished the game with 14 first downs and 355 total yards.
Meanwhile, Georgia State's defense was coming off of an inspired performance against South Alabama and continued improvement in an overtime loss last week in which they held UTSA to only three points in the first three quarters. Missing Jake Muasau, who did not start due to injury, the defensive unit played perhaps its worst game in the program’s 20-game history. St. Francis (IL), an NAIA team, had scoring plays of 2, 42, and 58 yards – the later capping a 3-play 82 yard drive. In addition to the big plays, St. Francis collected 25 first downs and amassed a total of 475 yards. Most devastating were two drives late in the fourth quarter in which GSU simply could not stop St. Francis’ heavy use of screen passes and draw plays.
Special teams also played a key role in the final minutes of the game, starting with a Matt Ehasz kickoff that went out of bounds, giving St. Francis the ball on the 40-yard line with about five minutes remaining. The Fighting Saints then marched down the field and scored a touchdown with 1:24 left on the clock. They then recovered an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff, and quickly moved down the field, kicking a 31-yard field goal as time expired.
In overtime, the Panthers were unable to gain any traction in their first three downs, and Ehasz’ 47-yard field goal attempt hit the goal post right at the intersection of the crossbar and the right upright. The Saints' Sean Murray then hit a 30-yard field goal on the Saint’s next possession to complete the GSU implosion.
After the game, Head Coach Bill Curry was apologetic about the team’s repeated lack of fourth-quarter performance. “[F]or one more embarrassing fourth quarter performance, we apologize to the Georgia State Community” he said. This season the Panthers have now been outscored in the fourth quarter 92-13, a statistic Coach Curry takes responsibility for, but can’t explain. “If we understood the syndrome, we would have corrected it by now. It is a pattern that has just been devastating to us that we bring on ourselves. I honestly believe that it is very much the head coach’s responsibility to prevent these types of things, when it happens over and over and over and it doesn’t change. If I could go back and start over I don’t know what I would do differently and that is another sad thing. It is an embarrassment.”
The Panthers have two games remaining this year starting next Saturday when they face Division II West Alabama on the road. The final game of the season will be at home in the Georgia Dome on November 19 against Campbell. Given today’s performance, and the scare Campbell gave GSU last year, neither game is by any means a sure win.
Best Play: Kelton Hill to Albert Wilson 50-yard reception.
Worst Penalty: Roughing the kicker on a punt out of the end zone.
When It Was Over: When St. Francis got into field goal position on their first play from scrimmage in overtime.