ATLANTA-Georgia State pulled out a dramatic double-overtime victory over South Alabama, 27-20, on Homecoming weekend Saturday at the Georgia Dome. Donald Russell gave the Panthers a seven-point lead in the second overtime with a eight-yard touchdown run, and on South Alabama's ensuing possession, linebacker Mark Hogan intercepted a tipped pass at the one-yard line to end the game.
On the final play, linebacker Jake Muasau pressured Bennett into throwing a jump ball into the end zone. The pass was batted into the air and fell into Hogan's arms to give the Panthers the win.
"On the last play, my ear pad had fallen out, my vision was blurry," Hogan said. "I just knew to keep playing and something good would happen. I saw a lot of blue jerseys in the area, so I knew it might be tipped up in the air."
The victory broke a five-game losing streak for the Panthers, who were winless since the opening victory against Clark Atlanta.
"There have been several times when I could honestly say I've never been more proud of a group of men," said head coach Bill Curry. "It would have been very easy to pack it in these last few weeks."
Georgia State (2-5) got record-setting performances from Russell, who had the first 100-yard rushing game in school history with 136 yards on 20 attempts, and Albert Wilson, who set a school record with 175 yards receiving on five catches. Russell's overtime touchdown run was his eighth of the season, including at least one in every game he has played.
"I'm just happy to get the win," Russell said. "It hasn't sunk in yet. We've had a hard time finishing. But we showed today that we can finish and come out with the victory."
Wilson's two touchdown catches - a 78-yard screen pass in the first quarter, and a 64-yard bomb in the second - both took their places atop the record books as the Panthers' longest plays from scrimmages.
Georgia State also broke a school mark with five takeaways in the game. In the first half, the Panthers defense forced a fumble, a turnover on downs and two interceptions to kill four South Alabama drives in the red zone. The defense was at a disadvantage throughout the game with the Jaguars starting drives, on average, at their 45-yard line.
Kelton Hill, making his first start at quarterback, finished 12-of-15 passing for 209 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, although the sophomore lost three fumbles. Hill started the game 6-for-6 for 161 yards and the two scores.
"It came down to me and the receivers staying after practice, getting our timing down," Hill said.
Placekicker Christian Benvenuto hit field goals of 46 in the third quarter and 45 in the fourth. The 46-yarder was a career-long.
The Panthers nearly won in regulation, as Hogan seemingly intercepted quarterback C.J. Bennett right outside the end zone with eight seconds on the clock and Georgia State leading 20-13. But the officials nullified the play, ruling that South Alabama had committed a false start penalty and giving the Jaguars another play on fourth and 9. On the next play, Bennett found Corey Waldon in the end zone for the game-tying score to force overtime.
The first overtime sequence began with a missed 44-yard field goal by South Alabama kicker Jordan Means, leading to a Georgia State possession. After two rushes by Russell put the ball on the 7-yard line, the Panthers elected to attempt a 24-yard game-winning field goal attempt on first down. Benvenuto's kick was blocked, however, setting up the second overtime period.
Georgia State again kept it on the ground with Russell in the second overtime, as he rushed three times and capped the possession with the 7-yard score.
Saturday's game was Georgia State's third overtime contest in school history, and the first double-overtime game. Last season, the Panthers fell to Jacksonville State, 34-27, and defeated North Carolina Central, 20-17, both at home in one overtime.
The Panthers go on the road next week to UTSA for a 1:30 p.m. contest against the first-year program, then return home on Nov. 5 to meet St. Francis.