The Georgia State Panthers celebrated their first game as a fully-fledged FBS college football team by taming the Abilene Christian University Wildcats 38-37 in an exciting finish to an offensive game at the Georgia Dome on Wednesday night in Atlanta. Both teams combined for more than 1,000 yards of total offense but it was the Panthers that came out on top with a field goal with only 4 seconds left on the game clock.
Georgia State is continuing its rise as a football school. In its fourth year the program is now a member of the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), the best 127 college football teams in the country. GSU is striving to become considered as one of the nation’s better teams and its inclusion in FBS and acceptance into the Sun Belt Conference was a necessary first step.
On the back of an 0-12 season in 2013 they are still a long way off from bowl consideration but they are entertaining and if the season-opening game is any indication they will certainly keep their fans on the edge of their seats. Furthermore they have their first win under second year head coach Trent Miles who was happy about the victory but even happier about the way the team played.
“They never quit believing,’ he said, ‘the whole time, they believed in themselves and they believed in the fact that we were going to win the game no matter what…It’s a great day for the Panthers.”
Up front the Panthers played well providing Nick Arbuckle, the team’s new quarterback time to rack up 413 yards of passing offense. Coach Miles was complimentary of his new leader, “I thought he kept his composure, that’s why we brought him in here.” Miles said before adding “He showed great leadership on the sideline. The players know who’s our leaders and Nick’s really stepped into that role.”
While the game was close in the first half ending with a 21-16 lead for the Panthers ACU came out in the second half and began to turn the game in their favor. Twice they had leads of nine points and still the Panthers came back.
The final six minutes of the game provided the most excitement for the 10,140 fans in attendance. With little more than six minutes left on the game clock ACU took their lead to nine points after a 75 yard drive ended with McKenzie making seven yard TD pass to Cade Stone.
Arbuckle got the ball back and drove 77 yards helped by two big pass completions of more than 25 yards before compling a nine yard pass for the TD to Joel Ruiz. The PAT cut the deficit to two points with four minutes left.
GSU’s defense stepped up and played huge on ACU’s next drive stopping them in their tracks and getting the ball back for Arbuckle and the GSU offense with 2.41 left.
Converting two fourth downs including one at 4th and 19 for 24 yards, Arbuckle demonstrated his maturity and his play capability on the final drive getting the Panthers to the ACU 9 yard line when Wil Lutz made the kick to give the Panthers their first win in almost two years.
Even ACU’s head coach had to acknowledge the game’s ending was one that unbiased spectators would have wanted. “Well as a fan, it was a pretty cool ending. But as the coach, when you look at how things played out, we blew our foot off at the end, and it seems like we self-destructed quite a bit…I knew if they got the ball back, they were going to have a shot…When it comes down to it, you have to tip your hat to them because they made the plays, and my guys didn't.”
Up next for the Panthers is another home game against New Mexico State on September 6.