Harrisonburg, Va.--Georgia State's late comeback fell just short as the Panthers fell at ninth-ranked James Madison, 28-21, Saturday at Bridgeforth Stadium in front of 22,813.
After falling behind 28-7, Georgia State (1-8, 1-5) scored a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns to pull within 28-21 and had one final possession with 56 seconds left but JMU (6-2, 4-1) held on for the victory.
Tight end Emmanuel Ogbuehi caught a five-yard touchdown pass with 10:47 left and then set up another touchdown when he ran 54 yards on a fake punt. Travis Evans, playing for injured running back Donald Russell, rushed for a career-high 98 yards for the Panthers. Rosevelt Watson ran for a TD and passed for another TD.
"That's a really painful loss against an outstanding football team because we had chances in all three phases-offense, defense and special teams-to win the game," said GSU head coach Bill Curry. "We needed to do a better job executing the little things to finish the job."
Georgia State trailed 14-7 after a strong first half in which the Panthers outgained JMU, 171-122. The score remained that way until late in the third quarter when James Madison scored on a 13-yard run by Jordan Anderson to move ahead 21-7. That touchdown capped a five-play 68-yard drive that was aided by a personal foul penalty for contact above the neck on Drew Pearson, a tight end who also took snaps at defensive end for the first time because the Panthers have suffered so many injuries on the defensive line.
The Dukes added to their lead soon after as Brandon Lee blocked a punt and returned it three yards for a touchdown, putting the Dukes ahead, 28-7, with 14 minutes to play.
The Panthers responded by driving 81 yards on eight plays to pull within 28-14 with 10:47 left. Ogbuehi started the drive with a 17-yard run and then finished it when he caught a five-yard pass from running back Rosevelt Watson, who had taken the snap in a Wildcat formation. That is the second career touchdown pass for Watson, who also threw one in 2010.
The GSU defense forced a three-and-out, and the Panthers took over at their own 33. On fourth-and-seven from the 36, Ogbuehi took the snap in punt formation and raced around the left side for 54 yards down to the 10-yard line. On the next play, McLane hit Parris Lee in the left flat, and Lee raced down the sideline for the score, bringing GSU within 28-21 with 6:31 left.
After the kickoff, JMU managed to grind the clock with runs, moving to the GSU 24-yard line when Cameron Starke missed his third field goal attempt of the day to give the Panthers one final chance with 56 seconds left. After an 18-yard reception by Lynquez Blar and a roughing the passer penalty, the Panthers had a final snap from the JMU 45-yard line with three seconds left, but the Dukes managed a sack as McLane waited for his receivers to get deep to end the game.
JMU jumped in front early, taking advantage of a Georgia State turnover. Evans fumbled on the Panthers' first play from scrimmage to give the Dukes the ball at the 23-yard line. JMU needed just four plays to score as Birdsong hit Dae'Quan Scott for a six-yard touchdown pass and a 7-0 lead.
The Panthers answered with an eight-play, 81-yard drive, all of it on the ground. After Watson rushed 10 yards for a first down at the JMU 47, Travis Evans raced 45 yards - the longest run of his career -before he was dragged down at the two-yard line. Then Watson punched it in on the next play as GSU evened the score at 7-all with five minutes left in the first quarter.
After Wil Lutz hit the crossbar on a 54-yard field goal attempt, James Madison drove 63 yards on six plays, capped by a four-yard scoring run by Starke. That put the Dukes ahead, 14-7, early in the second quarter.
Ogbuehi, GSU's senior tight end, finished with a career-high six catches, along with his 71 yards rushing on two carries. Watson, another senior, contributed 30 yards rushing, one touchdown on the ground and one touchdown pass.
Quarterback Ben McLane completed 22 of 37 passes for 170 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions.
Georgia State outgained James Madison, ranked No. 9 by the Sports Network and No. 10 in the FCS Coaches Poll, 348 to 340.
Dae'Quan Scott led the Dukes with 130 yards rushing. Freshman quarterback Michael Birdsong passed for 119 yards and one touchdown in his first start.
Before the game, James Madison honored GSU head coach Bill Curry by making him an honorary letterman.
"On a personal note, I can't remember anybody doing anything nicer for me," said Curry. "To be made an honorary letterman at a proud institution like this is a tremendous honor, and I am extremely grateful."