Knoxville, Tenn.--Playing just its third game ever against a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent, Georgia State (0-2) fell, 51-13, at Tennessee (2-0) Saturday at Neyland Stadium.
"We fought and scratched every step of the way," said GSU head coach Bill Curry. "Are we playing the error-free football we need to, no. But we're playing with a lot of effort and we'll learn from this experience.
"We showed much more grit and determination this game than last week, and we'll show more next week and the next week," he added.
Tennessee's Tyler Bray completed 18 of 20 passes for 310 yards and four touchdowns, three of them to Justin Hunter, who finished with eight catches for 146 yards.
"Tennessee's execution in the passing game was superb," said Curry. "We were taught some painful lessons by a great receiving corps and a potentially great quarterback. He was really delivering the ball in rhythm."
Despite the final score, the Panthers had bright spots in all phases.
Quarterback Ben McLane, the redshirt freshman playing just his second college game before 87,821 fans, was 18-for-41 for 146 yards. He converted three fourth downs with runs, and he scored the Panthers' only touchdown on a 12-yard scramble.
"He did a lot of great things today, and he also did some truly freshman things," Curry said of McLane, who at times had trouble handling the shotgun snaps.
Albert Wilson caught eight passes for 74 yards, and Donald Russell added 68 yards on the ground on 15 carries.
On defense, the GSU defensive line came up with a pair of turnovers as Terrance Woodard recovered a fumble and Joe Lockley grabbed an interception on a tipped ball.
Punter Matt Hubbard was impressive again, averaging 44.8 yards on eight punts, and placekicker Christian Benvenuto booted field goals of 32 and 30 yards.
Georgia State trailed just 7-3 after one quarter. After Tennessee took the opening kickoff and drove 78 yards on 13 plays, the Panthers answered with a long drive of their own, moving 60 yards on 14 plays for a field goal.
Facing third-and-25 on their own 25-yard line following a clipping penalty, McLane found Wilson for 24 yards to the 49. GSU then converted the fourth-and-one as McLane rambled seven yards up the middle on a quarterback keeper.
After Russell ran 26 yards before he was tripped up a the three, the Panthers had to settle for a 32-yard field goal by Christian Benvenuto.
Tennessee began its next possession in great field position at the GSU 39 after a 61-yard kickoff return by Cordarelle Patterson, but after one first down, the Panther defense held on three straight plays and forced a 38-yard field goal attempt, which Michael Palardy missed.
The GSU defense forced a three-and-out on the Vols' next possession, but a 35-yard punt return but UT in business again at the GSU 40, and this time, Bray needed just two plays, hitting Hunter for 21 yards and then tight end Mychal Rivera for the 19-yard touchdown and a 14-3 lead with 11 minutes left in the half.
But the Panthers cut the deficit to 14-6 late in the second quarter as Benvenuto booted his second field goal from 30 yards with 5:31 left in the half. The drive started after Woodard recovered a fumble at the UT 41.
McLane's fourth-quarter touchdown capped a 12-play, 80-yard drive.
The Panthers played much of the game without two of their top three receivers. Danny Williams did not play due to the lingering effects of an ankle injury he sustained last game. Jordan Giles left the game with a shoulder injury after catching two passes for 34 yards in the first quarter.
Georgia State returns home to host UTSA on Saturday, Sept. 15 at 6 p.m. at the Georgia Dome.