Panthers suffer another close defeat with 30-27 loss to Jaguars

On Saturday night in Mobile, Alabama, Georgia State football suffered another close defeat when the team lost to the South Alabama Jaguars by a final score of 30-27 from Ladd-Peebles Stadium.

The loss brings the Panthers to 1-6 on the season. It is also the third of their six defeats that were decided by only three points.

South Alabama won the opening coin toss and elected to receive the football. They would convert their opening drive into points when a 16 play, 76-yard drive lasting nearly six minutes resulted in a 5-yard run from quarterback Brandon Bridge for a touchdown. Aleem Sunanon’s point after attempt was good for a 7-0 lead for the Jaguars.

The ensuing kickoff would be returned 16-yards by Keith Rucker as the Panthers took the field on offense for the first time this game. Georgia State’s scoring drive only lasted five plays, as on a first and 10 from the Jaguars’ 44-yard line, Nick Arbuckle threw a 44-yard touchdown pass to Donovan Harden that evened the tally at seven apiece.

The next drive for the Jaguars resulted in a three and out, putting the Panthers offense back on the field. A second and 10 play from the Georgia State 41-yard line saw Arbuckle throw a completed pass to Harden for no gain, but Roman Buchanan forced a fumble recovered by South Alabama’s Davin Hawkins.

South Alabama converted the Georgia State turnover into points, but only three points when after two incomplete passes from Bridge to force fourth down, the Jaguars kicked a 43-yard field goal through the uprights for a 10-7 advantage.

The Panthers had a huge opportunity on their next drive to retake the lead as they forced first and goal from the Jaguars’ five-yard line. An incompletion and a quarterback keeper from Arbuckle that gained 4-yards brought up third and goal from the one.

Jonathan Lytle could not push the ball across the endzone to force fourth down from the one-yard line, then Arbuckle lost a yard as Georgia State went for it on fourth down as the first quarter came to a close.

The turnover on downs led to the Jaguars taking over possession again, before the Panthers forced a punt as the second quarter began.

Georgia State began their next drive at midfield, which included a 34-yard connection from Arbuckle to Harden on a third and 10 play from the 38-yard line. After a pair of runs from Gerald Howse and a Panthers timeout, Arbuckle found Ruiz for a one-yard touchdown to give Georgia State a 14-10 lead.

South Alabama moved the football on their ensuing possession to the Panthers’ 29-yard line, but Robert Dowling found his way to Bridge and sacked the Jaguars quarterback for a loss of 7-yards. This forced a punt.

The final two possessions for both Jaguars and Panthers ended in punts. Arbuckle would be sacked on the final play of the half as Georgia State went into the locker room at halftime with a 14-10 advantage.

At the half, Howse already compiled 56 rushing yards while Harden had 101 receiving yards and a touchdown reception. Arbuckle passed for 136.

The Panthers began the second half with the football, but punted after a three and out.

South Alabama began their next drive with decent field position at the 41-yard line of Georgia State.

Senior Jaguars runningback Jay Jones began the drive with a pair of carries that were over ten yards each. Two plays later, Bridge threw to senior wideout Shavarez Smith for a 15-yard touchdown, allowing South Alabama to go ahead again by three at 17-14.

Georgia State answered the last South Alabama scoring drive with seven points of its own. On first and ten from the Panthers’ 40-yard line, Arbuckle threw complete to Robert Davis for 57 yards to move the chains to the Jaguars’ three-yard line. Three plays later, the drive was capped off with a five-yard pass from Arbuckle to Harden for a touchdown and a 21-17 Georgia State lead.

The next drive for the Jaguars seemed to have them poised to tack on more points to retake the lead. On second and eight from the South Alabama 27-yard line, Bridge ran for 32 yards to the Georgia State side of the field at the 41-yard line.

The Jaguars forced first and goal from the six-yard line and a five yard gain from senior runningback Kendall Houston brought them to the one-yard line. False start and unsportsmanlike conduct flags against two South Alabama tight ends moved the Jaguars back to the 21-yard line.

South Albama had to settle for a field goal try from Sunanon, but the 38-yard attempt was missed.

After a three and out from Georgia State, they punted the ball back in which they got a big play on special teams. Senior Jaguars wide receiver Jerome Jones returned Wil Lutz’s 48-yard punt that same number of yards to place the football inside the red zone at the Panthers’ 15-yard line.

The Jaguars would only notch four yards and two incompletions as Sunanon was true from 28 yards out. The score became 21-20 Panthers.

Another Georgia State three and out gave the ball back to South Alabama, who would maintain possession as the third quarter concluded. That drive included a Bridge pass for 25 yards to Saxton that put the football to the Georgia State 30-yard line.

Four plays later, the drive stalled at the 26-yard line of the Panthers, setting the stage for another field goal from Sunanon, this time, from 43 yards away. That gave the Jaguars the lead as the score became 23-21.

Avery Sweeting returned the following kickoff 11 yards to the 24-yard line of Georgia State. The drive featured Arbuckle completing passes to Davis for 15 and 29 yards. The 11-play, 76 yard drive that lasted over five minutes culminated in a one-yard touchdown run from Duvall Smith, allowing the Panthers to regain the lead at 27-23.

Instead of an extra point attempt for Lutz, the offense tried a two-point conversion attempt, but the pass intended from Arbuckle for Joel Ruiz failed to tack on two more Panthers points.

Each team would punt on its next drive, but with first and 10 on the South Alabama 25, Bridge kept the ball and moved the football 62 yards to the 20-yard line of Georgia State. On the next play, Jones carried the ball two yards, but could have been called a fumble. The officials initially ruled Jones down and the play stood with 4:29 left to play.

Bridge connected with Danny Woodson, who got out of a couple of tackles, on the next play for an 18-yard touchdown and a 30-27 lead.

The Panthers offense did have a little over four minutes left for a game-winning drive. Sweeting returned the South Alabama kickoff to the 43-yard line. The Jaguars’ Berron Tyson then received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for punching Keith Rucker, earning Tyson an ejection from the game.

Georgia State would be aided by another penalty later in the drive for pass interference, giving them first and ten from Jaguars’ 41-yard line. After only gaining one yard on the next three plays, that brought up fourth and nine from the 40-yard line, in which Arbuckle picked up six yards, but not nine.

This put the Panthers back on defense, and with South Alabama facing second and seven, a Georgia State offsides penalty turned that into a second and two from the 42-yard line.

A second and nine from the Jaguars’ 46-yard line saw Houston rush for 10 yards for a first down. This eventually led to the 30-27 victory for South Alabama.

Bridge threw for 136 yards on 11 out of 32 passing with two touchdowns. He also rushed for a touchdown in addition to carrying the football 15 times for 137 yards. Saxton had a pair of receptions for 31 yards.

Arbuckle threw for 311 yards and three touchdowns. He also completed 23 out of his 40 passes. Howse carried the football 13 times for 53 yards. Two Panthers had over 100 receiving yards. Harden caught ten passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns while Davis had four receptions for 108.

Marcus Caffey was suspended for this game due to academic violations.

The next matchup for Georgia State will bring the Panthers back to the Georgia Dome against Georgia Southern Saturday at 2 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN3 as well as heard on radio on WIFN-AM 1340 The Fan 3 and WRAS-FM 88.5.