By A.J. Henderson
Special to College Sports Journal
Editor’s note: This story is courtesy of Georgia Southern athletics.
STATESBORO, GA. — Nick Arbuckle completed 20-of-32 passes for 346 yards and three touchdowns, and Georgia State became bowl eligible for the first time in school history with a 34-7 Sun Belt Conference football victory over Georgia Southern Saturday afternoon in Paulson Stadium.
Georgia Southern fell to third place in the Sun Belt Conference and awaits a bowl invite on Sunday, as does Georgia State.
The win also earns the Panthers (6-6, 5-3) two points in the Southern vs. State Rivalry Series, and Georgia State now holds a 5-2 lead.
L.A. Ramsby ran 15 times for 65 yards and a touchdown to lead Georgia Southern (8-4, 6-2), which saw its 11-game winning streak in Paulson Stadium come to an end. BJ Johnson caught four passes for 57 yards.
Penny Hart caught seven passes for 129 yards and a touchdown, and Donovan Harden had three receptions for 60 yards for Georgia State. Glenn Smith logged 13 carries for 83 yards, and Kyler Neal ran for two scores.
Georgia State held the Eagles to a season low in total yards (203) and rushing yards (135), and Tarris Batiste led the way with eight tackles, two interceptions and two tackles for loss.
“They won the battle up front on the offensive and defensive lines,” said Georgia Southern coach Willie Fritz. “We had a hard time running the football against them and then we had to pass, and we’re not a passing team. We were outplayed and outcoached. I didn’t prepare them as well as I needed to, and we didn’t execute.”
Georgia State broke a 7-7 tie early in the third quarter when Arbuckle found an open Robert Davis over the middle for an 18-yard touchdown. Smith started the drive with a 22-yard run, and Arbuckle also completed a 21-yard pass to Davis.
After the Panther defense forced a 3-and-out, Arbuckle completed passes of 27 and 29 yards to move Georgia State to the Eagle 4-yard line. The senior hit Keith Rucker for a 4-yard touchdown pass, and the Panthers opened a 20-7 lead with 5:10 left in the third.
The Eagles moved into Georgia State territory on their next series, but on 4th-and-4, Favian Upshaw’s pass to Johnson, which would have been good for a first down, was ruled incomplete after a replay review.
“I should have done a better job of securing the catch,” said Johnson.
Arbuckle hit Hart with a 28-yard pass to start the Panthers down the field, and on 3rd-and-goal from the 1-yard line, Neal dove in for the score and an insurmountable 27-7 cushion 46 seconds into the fourth quarter.
After the Panthers converted a first down with consecutive offside penalties on Georgia Southern, Arbuckle hit Hart over the top for a 63-yard touchdown and a 7-0 Georgia State lead early in the second quarter.
In the spirit of the season, the Panthers gifted the Eagles 38 yards worth of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on their next possession, and a 1-yard Ramsby run tied the score 7-7 with 10:32 left in the half.
The Eagles were driving late in the half, but Batiste intercepted Kevin Ellison at the 5-yard line to end the threat, and the score remained tied 7-7 at the break.
It was Senior Day and the final game in Paulson Stadium for 23 seniors.
“I’ll be forever grateful for the fans here; my four years have been tremendous,” said senior Matt Dobson, who finished the game with nine tackles and an interception. “It’s been a heck of a ride, and I’m going to miss it. We’ve accomplished so much, and I’m thankful and blessed for the opportunity I’ve had to play football here.”
Georgia Southern will learn the date, kickoff time, destination and opponent for the first bowl game in school history Sunday afternoon.