ATLANTA--Georgia State returns home to host UTSA Saturday at 6 p.m. at the Georgia Dome in a matchup of two fledgling programs in the first year of the two-year transition to the Football Bowl Subdivision.
The 6 p.m. kickoff marks GSU's first ever Saturday night home game at the Georgia Dome. Previous games have drawn well on Thursday and Friday nights and the students asked for more night games, so this will be a test for Saturday night.
Both programs will also move to new conferences in 2013, with Georgia State, which began its program in 2010, going from the CAA to the Sun Belt Conference next fall and UTSA, which started play in 2011, moving from the Western Athletic Conference to Conference USA in 2013. Both will be fully eligible for conference titles and postseason bowl games in 2014-15.
The game also features the matchup of veteran head coaches with GSU's Bill Curry facing UTSA's Larry Coker, who won a national championship at Miami in 2001.
Georgia State (0-2) is looking for its first victory of the season following last week's 51-13 loss at Tennessee. Despite the score, the Panthers showed positives in every area. GSU features senior running back Donald Russell, who leads the CAA with 94.0 yards rushing per game , and versatile receiver Albert Wilson, who averages 142.5 all-purpose yards.
UTSA (2-0) opened the season with a 33-31 win at South Alabama-GSU's future conference foe in the Sun Belt-and then defeated TexasA&M-Commerce, 27-16. The Roadrunners are led by quarterback Eric Soza, who has passed for 374 yards and four touchdowns, and running back David Glasco II with 128 yards rushing and two scores.
GSU Radio Network, including Atlanta flagship WCFO-AM Newstalk 1160 and WMLB-AM 1690 as well as WGST AM 640 and FM 92.3. Announcers are Dave Cohen (play-by-play), Harper LeBel (analyst), and Sam Crenshaw (sideline).
SILVER LINING IN LOSS TO VOLS
Georgia State's third ever game against an FBS team resulted in a 51-13 loss at Tennessee, but despite the margin, the Panthers' play showed promise. GSU trailed just 7-3 at the end of the first quarter and stayed within 14-6 with five minutes to play in the first half.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Ben McLane showed much improvement from his first collegiate game to his second. Despite playing without two of his top three receivers, McLane passed for 176 yards on 18 completions and converted three fourth downs with runs, including a 12-yard touchdown run on fourth and seven.
On defense, the Panthers' young defensive line forced two turnovers as noseguard Terrance Woodard recovered a fumble and freshman Joe Lockley grabbed an interception on a tipped ball.
GEORGIA STATE VS. UTSA
Georgia State and UTSA are meeting for the second straight year. Last season, the Roadrunners earned a 17-14 overtime victory at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.
The game was the second of three straight overtime contests for Georgia State. UTSA's Sean Ianno tied the game with a 39-yard field goal with just 24 seconds left in regulation, and then the Roadrunners' placekicker booted the game-winning 32-yarder in the first overtime after GSU missed its field goal attempt in the extra session.
Georgia State's Donald Russell rushed for 87 yards and a touchdown, and Albert Wilson caught a 54-yard touchdown pass from Kelton Hill.
GSU VS. FBS
Georgia State has played one FBS program in each of its first three seasons, including two from the powerful Southeastern Conference.
Most recently, the Panthers fell to Tennessee, 51-13, at historic Neyland Stadium, last Saturday.
In the inaugural season of 2010, Georgia State played at defending national champion and 10th-ranked Alabama (l. 63-7), and last year the Panthers faced Houston and its record-setting quarterback, Case Keenum (l. 56-0).
HONORS & RECORDS FOR PUNTER HUBBARD
Georgia State punter Matt Hubbard garnered several honors for his record-breaking performance in the Panthers' season opener against South Carolina State.
The sophomore from Peachtree City, Ga., was named CAA Football Special Teams Player of the Week -- the first such honoree in GSU history -- and FCS National Special Teams Player of the Week by the Sports Network. He was also recognized as FCS National Punter of the Week by the College Football Performance Awards.
Hubbard averaged an eye-catching 62.2 yards on five punts, easily the best single-game average in GSU history. His third punt of the night travelled a school-record 80 yards, and he also had boots of 58, 59, 55 and 59 yards.
Hubbard's average is better than both the NCAA FBS and FCS single-game records for punting average in a game with a minimum of five punts. However, because Georgia State is in the process of reclassifying from FCS to FBS, marks achieved by GSU players during the 2012 and 2013 seasons do not count as NCAA records.
After two games, Hubbard is averaging 51.5 yards per punt. The only other punter in FCS or FBS who is averaging better than 50 yards is Sean Sellwood of Utah at 52.6.
Running back Donald Russell opened his senior season by rushing for 120 yards on just 12 carries against South Carolina State, his second straight 100-yard effort and third in a GSU uniform. Last season, the transfer from Kentucky became the first 100-yard rusher in school history when he gained 136 yards against South Alabama. He added a career-high 146 yards in the 2011 finale against Campbell.
Against SCSU, Russell raced 52 yards on his first carry of the season. That is his longest run for the Panthers but not the longest of his career; he had a 79-yard scamper as a freshman at Kentucky in 20009.
Russell, who led the Panthers with 665 yards and nine touchdowns in 2011, added 68 yards rushing and 33 yards receiving at Tennessee.
For the season, Russell is the leading rusher in the CAA with 94.0 yards per game.
RUNNING WITH PURPOSE
Versatile receiver Albert Wilson is averaging 142.5 all-purpose yards per game. The junior from Port St. Lucie, Fla., is the Panthers' leading receiver with 11 catches for 118 yards. He also averages 12.5 yards on punt returns and 25.0 yards on kickoff returns.
Wilson is GSU's career leader with 2,427 all-purpose yards (115.6 ypg).
HEY JOE - TRUE FRESHMEN DEFENDERS MAKE IMPACT
A pair of true freshmen defenders are making a strong impact on the Georgia State defense in Joseph Peterson and Joe Lockley.
Peterson, from Dothan, Ala., earned a starting berth at middle linebacker and is Georgia State's second-leading tackler with 17 hits in two games. In his debut against South Carolina State, he was the Panthers' second-leading tackler with eight hits, including a tackle for loss. After that performance, he served as a game captain for the Panthers' game at Tennessee and made nine tackles against the Vols.
As a senior at Dothan High, Peterson was a first-team all-state in Class 6A by the Alabama Sportswriters Association. He made 112 tackles, including eight tackles for loss and four sacks. On offense, he ran for 669 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Defensive tackle Joe Lockley of Portal, Ga., is a top backup on the defensive line. Against Tennessee, he came up with an interception on a tipped ball. Perhaps the strongest player on the team, Lockley was an honorable mention all-state selection at tiny Portal High in South Georgia.