Emotional overtime loss for Panthers

Photo courtesy of Georgia State Athletics.

It was heartbreaking for Georgia State as the Panthers fell short to the undefeated Jacksonville State Gamecocks in overtime by a score of 32-26.

“They’re devastated,” an emotional, glassy-eyed Trent Miles said after the game. “At the same time they’re committed to understanding what it takes to continue to keep working and pounding that rock everyday until it breaks.”

After trailing by as many as 14 points, the Panthers were able to turn things around forcing overtime courtesy of a 26-yard field goal from Will Lutz in the final three seconds of the game.

The Gamecocks won the overtime coin toss and chose to start on defense.

The Panthers went three-and-out setting up a 42-yard field goal, but Lutz’s kick was no good.

“I feel like I rushed it. Tried to treat it like practice, probably got a little too comfortable on it,” Lutz said.

Lutz was two for four on field goals, hitting the upright on a 50-yard field goal attempt that had plenty of leg in it but was no good.

The Gamecocks offense took the field in overtime only needing a field goal to win.

Running back DeMarcus James ran two-yards into the end zone to claim the victory for the Gamecocks.

James had 82 rushing yards on 21 attempts and three touchdowns in the game.

Overall, the Panthers defense limited the seventh best rushing offense in the NCAA to 122 yards. The Gamecocks averaged 269 rushing yards per game.

“We have a strong defensive line. When we do things right, we’re a pretty tough opponent,” defensive-end Theo Agnew said.

“We were more so focused on us and us doing things right than them,” Agnew said on preparing for Jacksonville State’s running game.

The Panthers came out of the gate firing.

Their first play of the game was a play-action pass from Ronnie Bell down the middle of the field to Albert Wilson for a 75-yard touchdown pass.

Wilson had 158 yards on seven catches.

Things didn’t continue to run smoothly as Will Lutz missed the extra point limiting the Panthers early lead to six.

“That didn’t lose the game,” Miles said. “If anything, I’d rather you say that I didn’t coach him well enough on that extra point,” Miles said defending his kicker.

The Panthers were down 23-9 going into the fourth, but a series of fortunate events shifted the momentum in their favor.

The Panthers defense forced a three-and-out on Jacksonville State’s first drive of the fourth quarter forcing a punt.

C.J. Scott broke through the line and absorbed the force of the punt falling on it into the end zone for a touchdown.

“We got a spark when we blocked the punt,” Miles said. “We had a good defensive stand and blocked the punt, and execution fuels emotion.”

The special teams continued to thrive on the following kickoff.

Jamal Ransby forced a fumble from kickoff returner Telvin Brown. Dontavis Crocker recovered the fumble putting the Panthers into a position to tie the game at 23.

Two plays into the drive Bell found Robert Davis for a 10-yard touchdown pass.

Bell completed 16-of-41 pass attempts for 250 yards.

Bell led the running game in the fourth quarter after the defense allowed a field goal giving the Gamecocks the lead with just under three minutes left in the fourth.

In the final drive of the fourth quarter, Bell ran for 46 yards, which included a 17-yard run on fourth-and-3 and a 12-yard run on third-and-12, allowing the Panthers to get in field goal range to tie the game and push it to overtime.

Bell’s 17-yard run was the longest in his career. His previous long had been 12 yards.

“We like [Bell] to take off and run. I’m very happy that he recognized those things and took off,” Miles said on Bell’s ability to know when to scramble.

The Gamecocks quarterback duo of Max Shortell and Eli Jenkins threw for a combined 339 yards but no touchdowns. Jenkins had one rushing touchdown.

This was Georgia State’s second loss to Jacksonville State in overtime and their third loss to them overall.

Jacksonville State remains undefeated improving their record to 4-0 while the Panthers’s record drops to 0-4.

“I can tell you that it is getting really, really close,” Miles said. “Our young men are going to win games.”

The Panthers go into a bye week and prepare to face the No. 1 ranked Alabama on Oct. 5 at Tuscaloosa, Ala.