College Sports

Georgia State rolls to victory in Statesboro

Georgia Southern defensive lineman Jamal Johnson (51) brings down Georgia State wide receiver Taz Bateman (22) during Saturday's game in Statesboro.
Georgia Southern defensive lineman Jamal Johnson (51) brings down Georgia State wide receiver Taz Bateman (22) during Saturday's game in Statesboro. AP

STATESBORO -- Beware of the chickens coming home to roost.

Actually, in this case, it was Panthers -- as in Georgia State -- coming home to roost.

A year after Georgia Southern embarrassed Georgia State by 38 points in the first meeting between the two programs, it was the Panthers' turn to gloat.

In one of the most improbable turnarounds in college football this season, Georgia State totally dominated Georgia Southern on Saturday afternoon before 23,401 to earn a 34-7 win and become bowl eligible for the first time in the history of the five-year old program.

And, the Panthers not only won convincingly, but they did it at Paulson Stadium, where the Eagles have been practically invincible since it opened in 1984.

It was Georgia Southern's worst loss at home since it restarted football in 1982. The Eagles, now 186-34 at Paulson, lost to Middle Tennessee 25-10 in 1985.

The game was tied at 7 at the half, but it was all Georgia State after the break as quarterback Nick Arbuckle ripped to shreds the Eagles secondary as he threw for 346 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Panthers (6-6, 5-3 Sun Belt) to the stunning win over the Eagles (8-4, 6-2), who had an 11-game home winning streak snapped.

Georgia Southern will learn its bowl destination Sunday. Unless something changes, the Eagles are all but locked in to the GoDaddy Bowl, which will be played Dec. 23 in Mobile, Alabama, against a Mid-American Conference team.

The Panthers, who entered the game as a 21-point underdog, become the fourth Sun Belt team to become bowl eligible and could be going to the Cure Bowl on Dec. 19 in Orlando, Florida. The conference has four bowl tie-ins, and conference champion Arkansas State will go to the Carrier Bowl on Dec. 19 in New Orleans. Appalachian State gets the nod for the Camellia Bowl in Montgomery, Alabama.

South Alabama had a chance to get bowl eligible, too, as the Jaguars (5-6) played Appalachian State late Saturday night. The Jags were expected to wind up in the Cure Bowl with a win, with the Panthers headed to the Arizona Bowl on Dec. 29 in Tucson.

"I'm very disappointed," Georgia Southern head coach Willie Fritz said. "We were outplayed and out-coached. I thought we had a decent week of practice and were prepared.

"They did a good job preparing for us, obviously, by the way they shut the option down. We just didn't execute very well, and we made some calls that in hindsight maybe we shouldn't have. We just didn't play very well."

Georgia Southern gouged the Panthers for 660 yards, 613 on the ground, last year, but it was a different story this time around.

The Panthers limited the Eagles to their lowest offensive output of the season as Georgia Southern had only 203 yards. The nation's top rushing team gained only 135 yards on 44 attempts. The Eagles were averaging 375.6 yards per game going into the contest.

Georgia Southern hardly resembled the team that took Georgia to overtime before losing 23-17 two weeks ago and only a week ago dismantled South Alabama 55-17, a team the Panthers struggled to beat 24-10 two weeks ago.

The Eagles' struggles on offense were not helped, either, when they lost running back Matt Breida with an ankle sprain with eight minutes remaining the second quarter following a run on which he gained 14 yards. Breida entered the game with 1,495 yards on the season and finished the game with 45 yards on eight attempts. He pushed his career total to 3,040.

After a scoreless first quarter, Arbuckle teamed with Penny Hart on a 63-yard scoring strike to culminate a four-play, 85-yard drive. The Eagles answered four minutes later when L.A. Ramsby scored from the 1.

On their next possession, the Eagles had an opportunity to take the lead, but Younghoe Koo missed on a 37-yard field goal attempt, and that basically was it on the day for the Eagles' offense.

Georgia State came out on fire in the second half, scoring on its first three possessions to take control.

Arbuckle completed 9-of-10 passes for 160 yards and two touchdowns in the second half, hitting Northside product Robert Davis from 18 yards out and Keith Rucker on a 4-yarder over the middle, that one coming with 5:10 left in the quarter and pushing the lead to 20-7.

"You never want to make judgments as soon as the game is over," Eagles safety Matt Dobson said. "I want to watch the tape, but we just didn't execute. We had a lot of mistakes, and they didn't.

"I don't want to take any credit from them. This is an extremely tough loss.

"We have a winning tradition here, especially at home. We've got to put this behind us because we've got a big game in a few weeks."

In addition to Arbuckle throwing the ball extremely well in the second half, the Panthers also turned to a dormant running game to help hold the Eagles at bay.

After running for only 27 yards in the first half, the Panthers picked up 116 in the second half with Glenn Smith doing the bulk of the damage with 83 yards. Ramsby led the Eagles with 65 yards, while Favian Upshaw added 20.