ATLANTA (Aug. 30) - Richard Cue was just too much for Georgia State in Thursday’s 2012 season opener. The South Carolina State quarterback threw for 300 yards and three touchdowns as the Bulldogs defeated the Panthers, 33-6 in front of 18,921 at the Georgia Dome.
Georgia State scored on its first possession of the second half, getting a 25-yard field goal from Matt Ehasz to get to within 14-6. But the hosts never got closer.
On the ensuing drive, Cue, who a year ago threw for just 900 yards in nine games, completed all three of his pass attempts, including a 13-yard touchdown toss to Tyler McDonald that put the Bulldogs up 21-6.
In between two Georgia State drives-one that ended on a punt and the other when Ehasz’s 36-yard field goal attempt was wide right-Nick Belcher kicked a pair of field goals from 20 and 27 yards, the last of which capped a 17-play drive and made it 27-6 with just under six minutes to play.
"Obviously a huge disappointment," said Georgia State coach Bill Curry. "We have a good football team and we'll continue to work very hard. We will not concede anything. (South Carolina State) played well, did a lot of things well, better than we did. We'll learn from it, go back to work and we'll be a good football team this year. We'll go back to work tomorrow morning and keep working until we perform the way we can."
A late touchdown pass helped South Carolina State build a 14-3 halftime lead. With 40 seconds left in the second quarter, Cue led the visiting Bulldogs on a two-play drive, culminating in a 22-yard touchdown toss to McDonald. The junior wide receiver made a great catch, then tight-roped the sideline and reached the end zone.
Georgia State, kicking off its third season and final one under coach Bill Curry, had cut the deficit to 7-3 on a 36-yard field goal by Matt Ehasz. But the Panthers couldn't capitalize after Cue was intercepted for the second time in the half, this time by Brent McClendon with 5:40 to play in the second. Ehasz's 24-yard attempt hit the right upright to keep it a four-point game.
"We had plenty of chances. We had a good chance coming out during the second half," said Curry. "When we get in the red zone, we have to score. And we just didn't do that."
South Carolina State struck first. On a third-and-seven deep in their own territory, the Bulldogs got a 73-yard touchdown connection from Cue to Lennel Elmore to make it 7-0 just 54 seconds into the game.
Georgia State had a pair of record-breaking plays in the opening half. Senior running back Donald Russell (120 yards on 12 carries) tied teammate Kelton Hill for the fourth-longest run from scrimmage in the Panthers’ three-year history with a 52-yard scamper midway through the first quarter. That gave the Panthers the ball at the South Carolina State 32-yard line, but the drive stalled after three short runs and an incompletion on fourth-and-two.
Punter Matt Hubbard bested his own school record with an 80-yard punt that pinned South Carolina State to its two-yard line. Hubbard’s previous best was a 64-yarder against Texas-San Antonio in October, 2011.
That set up the Panthers’ defense, which came up with a big stop on third-and-two to force a punt. Redshirt-freshman Ben McLane, making his first collegiate start at quarterback, came through with his first big play, hooking up with Danny Williams for a 20-yard completion. It allowed Ehasz to boot his field goal with 6:33 left until halftime.
McLane struggled in his debut. He completed just 7 of 15 passes for 54 yards and was sacked five times.
"We'd told him that this would be faster than anything he'd seen. But he will adjust in time," Curry said of McLane. "I'm not sure he really got a fair chance to show what he can do"
Hill relieved McLane on a number of possessions, and the redshirt-junior was 7 of 13 for 76 yards.
Late in the game, Georgia State was driving when Parris Lee fumbled, Dominique Mitchell recovered and returned it 68 yards for a touchdown and a 33-6 cushion.