ATLANTA -- Conner Manning passed for a career-high 340 yards and two touchdowns, including nine passes for 149 yards to Robert Davis, as the Panthers defeated Texas State 41-21 Saturday at the Georgia Dome. The 41 points equal the Panthers' high under head coach Trent Miles; Georgia State also scored 41 at Texas State last year.
The Panthers (1-4, 1-1 Sun Belt Conference) posted season highs for passing yards (340), rushing yards (196) and total offense (536). Kyler Neal led the rushing attack with a career-best 89 yards on 13 carries, including one touchdown.
Davis, the senior standout, tied his career-high with nine catches for 149 yards, highlighted by a 55-yard touchdown catch. He recorded his seventh career 100-yard game, and the touchdown was his eighth career reception of 50-plus yards.
After allowing touchdowns on Texas State's (2-3, 0-1 Sun Belt) first two possessions, the Georgia State defense was outstanding, forcing three turnovers and collecting four sacks. The Bobcats were 5-for-6 on third downs on their first two drives, but GSU held them to for 1-for-13 the rest of the game.
"I thought our guys did, especially on defense, an outstanding job of overcoming adversity after the first two series of the game," head coach Trent Miles said. "When they went up 14-0, our defense made some excellent adjustments on the sideline and basically only gave up seven points the rest of the game. We were backed up numerous times because of offensive miscues and gave up no points, so I thought it was an outstanding effort by our defense."
After falling behind, Georgia State rallied with 24 straight points in the second quarter to take a 24-14 advantage into the locker room and then scored the first 10 points of the second half to take control with a 34-14 lead.
"Offensively, it was our best performance yet," Miles said. "We’ve got to take care of the ball in the fourth quarter, too many turnovers that allowed them to be right there, but we got bailed out by the defense. We ran the ball better than we have all year, I think we had almost 200 yards rushing.
"I thought Conner Manning played extremely well, got the ball to the big dog, Robert Davis, and he made some excellent plays. I’m thrilled with the way our offensive line was able to establish the line of scrimmage and move the ball and keep them from getting a lot of pressure on him (Manning).”
The 24 points in the second quarter are the most Georgia State has ever scored in a single quarter.
Trailing 14-0, the Panthers forced a punt and took over at their own 9-yard line, and Manning directed a 91-yard drive, highlighted by an 18-yard pass to Davis, a 26-yard completion to Ari Werts. Manning picked up a key first down at midfield with a 2-yard scramble and then capped the march with a 1-yard plunge for the score, pulling the Panthers within 14-7 early in the second quarter.
Then the Panthers' defense stepped up as cornerback Jerome Smith intercepted Jones' next pass--Smith's third pick of the seaso--to give Georgia State possession at the Texas State 46. That led to Manning's 8-yard touchdown pass to tight end Keith Rucker. True freshman Tra Barnett started the drive with a 13-yard run, and Manning hit Davis for 22-yards to the 11 to set up the score and tie the game at 14-14.
After a three-and-out by the Bobcats, Georgia State put together another long drive, this time marching 82 yards. Manning's 21-yard completion to Rucker put the Panthers at the Texas State 32, where Georgia State pulled out a trick play. Barnett took a handoff and then flipped to Glenn Smith on a reverse, and Smith raced around the right side for the 32-yard score. That gave the Panthers their first lead at 21-14 with six minutes to play in the first half.
On the first play of the second half, Manning hit Davis for a 55-yard touchdown pass and a 31-14 lead for the Panthers.
“The offensive line gave us time to throw the ball, my quarterback gave me a perfect pass, and I did my simple job of catching the ball and getting it into the endzone," Davis said.
After Rogier ten Lohuis hit his second field goal of the day, Neal capped a 76-yard touchdown drive with a 3-yard scoring run for a 41-21 GSU lead with five minutes left in the third quarter.
Georgia State led 41-21 late through the third quarter when the Panthers turned the ball over on three straight possessions. But each time, the GSU defense held. First, Chandon Sullivan blocked a field goal, and then the defense held on downs, forcing an incompletion on fourth down. Finally, Mackendy Cheridor forced a fumble while sacking Texas State quarterback Tyler Jones and Tevin Jones recovered for GSU.
Cheridor, the junior defensive end, finished with seven tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss including 2.5 sacks, and a forced fumble.
In addition to blocking the field goal, Sullivan had an interception, his second of the season, in the end zone. That gives him five career interceptions, tying three other players for the GSU career lead.
Georgia State is at Troy next Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET. The next home game for the Panthers is Oct. 22 vs. UT Martin at 3:30 p.m. for Homecoming.