Leading up to his final game, Coach Bill Curry seemed to be searching for meaning for this season that had not produced the results he expected at the beginning of the year.
“It’s probably a natural thing to wonder right now, what are we learning from this experience, especially our student-athletes. It is this: we never stop working,” Curry said last week as the Panther’s prepared for their final game against Maine. “We never concede to injuries or circumstances that we are not going to be a great football program. We know that we will. We hope that it’s this Saturday.”
“I think it should have happened much faster. The responsibility for that falls on all of us, but mostly me, but that doesn’t mean that we get discouraged or let up or give up. Some people give up along the way, and that’s ok. I understand that. But our players haven’t, and even when we are in the most difficult circumstances in games, this team has continued to fight. This group of men is going to Maine intent on winning.”
This message of persistence was repeated by starting center Michael Davis when he was asked what he would miss most about Coach Curry.
“One of the things I’m going to miss most about Coach Curry is just his attitude, which is being positive all the time and being someone who truly, truly never quits,” said Davis. “There’s a lot of people that say a lot of things, but they don’t necessarily practice what they preach, and to be around Coach Curry every single day – he’s a man with true integrity. I believe that’s become rare now-a-days. I’m going to miss that a lot. He’s somebody that I can always look to, he’s always got a positive attitude, he’s taught me so many things as a football player, and helped me become a better man while I’ve been here at Georgia State.”
Unfortunately, persistence didn’t pay off as Georgia State fell at Maine, 51-7, wrapping-up a 1-10 season, the last for retiring head coach Bill Curry.
“I haven’t really focused on the fact that this is the last hurrah; I’ll think about later,” said Curry after the game. “Right now, I’m just extremely disappointed that we couldn’t end the season with our best effort."
Georgia State’s lone score came on a 22-yard touchdown pass from Ben McLane to Danny Williams late in the first half.
Highlights of the game included McLane passing for 154 yards, Travis Evans rushing for 77 yards on 17 carries, and Albert Wilson's three receptions for 75 yards.
In the locker room after the game, Curry told his Panthers, “I want each of you to know that I love you, and I admire all the effort you have put in. We all know in this room that we are a better football team than we showed at any time this year. The next step is to become a great football team, and I know you will.”
The previous night, the men’s basketball had enjoyed the kind of national stage that in the recent history of Georgia State had only been matched by the inaugural football team’s trip to Alabama in 2010. The Panther’s experience against the Duke Blue Devils, while a loss on the scoreboard, was a stark contrast to the loss suffered by the football team.
“I am really proud of our guys,” commented head coach Ron Hunter after the game. “They came in and played really hard. I was anxious to see what kind of team we had and after tonight, I truly do think we are going to have a very good team.”
Georgia State, playing its first game ever at Cameron Indoor Stadium, got off to a quick start after Duke won the tip. R.J. Hunter quickly got a steal that led to a fast break lay-up to give the Panthers a 2-0 lead.
The Blue Devils followed with an 8-0 run to take an 8-2 at the first media timeout. Junior Denny Burguillos, a surprise addition to the starting lineup that had been hinted at by Athletic Director Cheryl Levick before the game, picked up two quick fouls in the first 2:22 forcing Coach Hunter to use three big men in the first half and continued to sub with James Vincent and T.J. Shipes throughout the second half.
Georgia State responded as Vincent’s lay-up in the paint cut Duke’s lead to 17-15 with 7:48 remaining in the first half. Duke then pulled away with a 15-7 run to open up a 32-22 lead at halftime.
Duke held Georgia State to 32 percent shooting in the first half, including just 1-of-8 from three-point range.
Trailing by 22 with 13:19 remaining in the game, Georgia State made a run to cut the deficit to 55-40 with 9:02 remaining. Duke responded with a pair of three-pointers pushed the lead back to 21.
A free throw by Devonta White cut the deficit to 14 with 3:41 to play, but that is as close as GSU would get as the Blue Devils pulled away and won the game 74-55.
The Panthers were held to 37.3 percent shooting, but knocked down 4-of-6 from three-point range in the second half, while Duke shot 11-of-24 from three-point range and 51.1 percent for the game.
“Duke is well deserving of its No. 8 ranking and are going to give a lot of teams trouble this season” Hunter said. “Although I obviously wanted to win, the exposure and tests that we went through tonight made it a successful trip.”
So, as a young, enthused basketball team gets ready for it's next game at BYU, and a season of promise coming off of the second-most successful year in the program's history, the football program is left to rebuild its staff, and its psyche, coming off the worst record in it's three-year existence.