Same old story for the Panthers

Photo Courtesy: Georgia State Athletics The football team went 0-12 in Miles' first season.

The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (5-4, 2-3 Sun Belt) snapped their two-game losing streak with a 44-28 win over the Georgia State Panthers (0-9, 0-4 Sun Belt).

The Hilltoppers took a 10-point lead in the first quarter by a 2-yard touchdown run from running back Keshawn Simpson and a 40-yard field goal by Garrett Schwettman.

“We dug oursleves a huge hole. We were unable to sustain any drives in the first half with our offense,” Georgia State head coach Trent Miles said.

The Panthers responded by utilizing the air attack as quarterback Ronnie Bell connected with true freshman Robert Davis for a 67-yard touchdown pass, the longest touchdown by anyone on the team besides senior receiver Albert Wilson.

“We got playmakers, and I can get the ball in their hands. They make plays,” Bell said on the long pass.

Bell threw for his third most productive game this season completing 26-of-41 passes for 325 yards and two touchdowns. Last week against ULM, Bell completed only two passes.

Bell said he was able to get in a rhythm early causing him to have a more productive day than at ULM.

The Panthers committed no penalties in the first quarter, but things quickly changed as the Panthers committed four penalties in the second quarter for 35 yards including a hold and a false start from senior left tackle Ulrick John.

“Nobody’s more upset than [John] is, so I don’t get frustrated,” Miles said on the senior. “Take out those two negatives, he probably had about 60 really, really good plays.”

Georgia State finished the day with six penalties for 65 yards. Miles said that is two more penalties than they are content with.

The offensive line came into the game weakened by injuries forcing Miles to continue to put in younger, less experienced guys.

“They did a real good job,” Bell said on the offensive line. “We only got seven offensive linemen, so when one goes down, we’re looking pretty slim. They did a pretty good job protecting me. A couple slip ups, but it’s football. That’s going to happen.”

The offense was stagnant for the rest of the first half while the Hilltoppers offense livened up.

The Hilltoppers scored 21 unanswered points, 14 of them from Simpson. Simpson ran for 25 yards and four touchdowns in the game.

Things picked up again in the second half for the Panthers as the running game began to look alive.

Follwing a touchdown from the Hilltoppers, Evans and Jonathan Jean-Bart rushed for a combined 27 yards followed by a 32-yard pass to Avery Sweeting who fell at the Hilltoppers 4-yardline.

The play set Evans up to score his second rushing touchdown this season on a 2-yard run.

The defense forced a three-and-out on the following drive, and the Panthers were able to put together another scoring drive courtesy of true freshman Jean-Bart on an 11-yard touchdown run squeezing the ball inside the left pylon and making it a 10-point game.

“The kids showed again that they’re fighters…[they] made it a game,” Miles said on coming within 10 points.

“They kept stacking the box…they had changed it up after haltime, but we were still able to get positive yards,” Jean-Bart said on the running games adjustment in the second half.

Jean-Bart finished with 53 yards on 10 carries, and Miles said the true freshman is likely to see increased playing time with senior Travis Evans.

“It’s hard to bench a senior with three more games to go in his career for a freshman. To me, it doesn’t matter who starts as they’re both going to play,” Miles said.

The Panthers rally quickly ended as Western Kentucky scored two more touchdowns while running the clock down to secure the victory.

Panthers receiver Avery Sweeting picked up a 19-yard touchdown pass from Bell to score his first career touchdown in the final minutes.

The Panthers go into a bye week before a second-straight home game. They will face the University of Louisiana-Lafayette on Nov. 16.