SAN MARCOS, TEXAS – Kyler Neal’s 22-yard touchdown run with six minutes to play lifted Georgia State to a 33-30 victory at Texas State to make the Panthers bowl eligible for the second time in three years. The win was also GSU’s school-record fifth straight road victory.
Devin Gentry caught two touchdown passes from Conner Manning, Glenn Smith rushed for a career-high 98 yards and Brandon Wright kicked a school-record four field goals as Georgia State (6-3, 5-1 Sun Belt) won for the sixth time in seven games. The Panthers are now tied atop the Sun Belt standings with Troy and Appalachian State at 5-1, and Arkansas State, which lost today at South Alabama, one-half game behind at 4-1.
“The way that we continue to win these games is a tribute to our players and their mentality and the way that they work, and our coaching staff,” head coach Shawn Elliott. “We don’t always play the very best, clean ballgame, but somehow we find a way to pull out these wins.
“We came out in the second half with a new mentality, having fun out there, and after a 33-30 win, you can say that was a fun night.”
For the second straight week, the Panthers trailed in the final 10 minutes before scoring the winning touchdown. Neal’s go-ahead score, on which he tied the GSU career record of 12 rushing touchdowns, came after Texas State scored a touchdown following a bad snap by the Panthers on a punt. That gave the Bobcats the ball at the 1-yard line, and Anthony Smith punched it in for a 30-26 Texas State lead with 8:37 to play.
The Panthers took the ensuing kickoff and drove 80 yards. Manning started the drive with a 19-yard run, then hit passes to Smith for 10 yards and Jonathan Ifedi for 8 yards to the Texas State 38. Smith rushed for eight yards, Tamir Jones caught a 6-yard pass, and Neal gained two yards. On 3rd-and-2, Neal broke through the middle for the 22-yard touchdown.
Texas State drove for a touchdown on the game’s opening possession, but the Panthers answered with Wright’s career-long 48-yard field goal. The big play on the drive was a 34-yard reception by Todd Boyd.
On GSU’s next possession, Manning hit Gentry for a short gain, and Gentry broke a tackle and raced for the end zone, completing a 34-yard scoring play that put the Panthers up 10-7 with six minutes to go in the first quarter.
After a Texas State touchdown early in the second quarter, Georgia State got in position for another 48-yard field goal by Wright, this one bringing the Panthers within 14-13 with 7:39 left in the second quarter.
Trailing 14-13, Georgia State opened the second half with a big play by Penny Hart, who caught a pass over the middle and raced down to the 10-yard line for a 61-yard gain. But on the next play, freshman Tamir Jones had the ball knocked loose as he tried to reach the goal line, and Texas State recovered. The Bobcats converted the turnover into a field goal to lead 17-13 with nine minutes in the third quarter.
From there, the lead changed hands five times.
The Panthers inched closed on another Wright field goal to pull within 17-16 with eight minutes to play in the third quarter.
Then Gentry turned a short pass over the middle into a long touchdown, this time breaking a tackle and outracing the defense for a 71-yard scoring play that gave Georgia State a 23-17 advantage with 44 seconds in the third quarter.
Texas State scored on a pass that bounced off one receiver into the hands of another Bobcat, Elijah King, for a 34-yard touchdown pass. But Julien Laurent blocked the PAT, keeping the score tied at 23-all with 14 minutes to play.
Wright, the sophomore from Atlanta, kicked his school-record fourth field goal two minutes later, set up by a 44-yard run by Manning, and Georgia State led 26-23 with 12 minutes to go.
Wright set Georgia State single-game records with four field goals and 15 points by kicking. He also had six touchbacks on eight kickoffs, and averaged 46.3 yards on three punts, including a 66-yard boot.
Manning was 26-for-40 for 368 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for a career-high 60 yards, despite two sacks.
Smith caught five passes for 45 yards to go along with his 98 yards rushing, and he also returned three kickoffs for 62 yards to total 205 all-purpose yards. Hart finished with four catches for 85 yards.
Georgia State is off next Saturday before finishing the regular season with home games vs. Appalachian State (Nov. 25) and Idaho (Dec. 2) at Georgia State Stadium.