The Panthers came into their third season in Division I football with a 1-23 record. Questions of whether the Panthers would continue this trend of only winning one more game than the previous season came about. However the Panthers made sure this year would be the best one yet.
The Panthers started their season off with a close home loss to Charlotte 23-20, but got their first win of the season the very next game against New Mexico State 34-32. With already winning the same amount of games as last year, there was hope for a better season for the team, but the next few games showed otherwise.
After their first win of the season, the Panthers went on a 3-game losing streak, where they gave up an average of 46 points. Two of the losses were at home with one of them being a conference loss. The other game was at Oregon, a matchup where the Panthers were complete underdogs.
The Panthers would finally stop this losing streak by beating Ball State 31-19 on the road. Even with just two wins this season, this was considered the Panthers best Division I football season yet, having more wins than the previous two years.
To say the least, this Panthers football season was indeed a roller coaster, as they lost their next two games to Arkansas State and Louisiana-Lafayette. The Panthers were sitting at a 2-6 record and were one game away from not becoming bowl eligible. The Panthers would need to win their last four games in order to become bowl eligible. A tall order for a team who has only won three games out of their last 32, but anything is impossible especially in sports.
Panthers against all odds
Their next game was at Texas State, a conference game in which the Panthers came out guns blazing on offense scoring 41 points and the defense holding Texas State to just 19. This was the Panthers highest scoring game of the season thanks to Nick Arbuckle throwing for over 450 yards and tossing four touchdown passes. This was the start the Panthers needed to gain confidence to try and become bowl eligible for the first time in school history.
The Panthers next game was against South Alabama at home. It was a defensive game in which the Panthers defense held the Jaguars under 300 total yards and zero points in the second half. The Panthers won 24-10 and found a different way than last week to get the win by being more defensive than offensive.
The Panthers would host Troy next, a game in which the Panthers dominated even though the score of 31-21 may not reflect it. The Panthers ran over 80 offensive plays and accumulated 519 total yards and had one of their best offensive running games of the season rushing for 151 yards. The Panthers were up 31-7 at one point in the game, until Troy scored the final two touchdowns by the end of the game. The Panthers were on a three game winning streak and were one win away from becoming bowl eligible with the only team in their way being rival Georgia Southern.
The Georgia State and Georgia Southern game is always big for bragging rights, but the fact that this game could determine if the Panthers would go to their first bowl game made it even more entertaining. The Panthers were indeed underdogs as the Eagles were coming into the game with an 8-3 record and were undefeated at home. However records mean nothing, it all comes down to how a team performs on game day and that’s how the Panthers entered the game.
The Panthers would destroy Georgia Southern on the road beating them 34-7 and become bowl eligible. The Panthers took off in the second half after it was tied 7-7 and would end up scoring 27 unanswered points. The Panthers defense held one of the top offensive rushing teams in the nation to only 135 rushing yards and only 203 total yards. It wasn’t just the defense that performed; the offense also did their job putting up over 480 yards of total offense.
The Panthers would participate in the Cure Bowl in Orlando, Florida against San Jose State. The Panthers lost 27-16, giving up two touchdowns in a row in the fourth quarter to give San Jose State their comeback victory. Georgia State had one of their worst offensive performances of the season only having 230 yards of total offense. The Panthers may have lost their bowl game, but this was indeed their best Division I football season in school history. They had a 2-6 record and managed to go on an unbelievable 4 game winning streak, in which they put the smack down on rival Georgia Southern in their house. The Panthers finished with a 6-7 record, went to their first bowl game, and had more wins than other season. This football season is one to remember in the history books.