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Courtesy: Mike Holmes/Sports Communications
Ronnie Bell passed for 250 yards and two touchdowns on Saturday.

Panthers Rally Late, But Fall in Overtime to JSU 32-26

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ATLANTA — Despite mounting a fourth-quarter rally to tie the game and force overtime, Georgia State (0-4) fell to Jacksonville State (4-0) 32-26 in a back-and-forth contest at the Georgia Dome on Saturday afternoon.

Trailing 23-9 to start the fourth quarter, the Panthers strung together two touchdowns in less than two minutes to tie the score. Both teams then traded field goals before regulation expired with the score knotted at 26-26.

After GSU missed a 42-yard field goal on the opening possession of overtime, the Gamecocks drove down the short field for the touchdown and the victory. The 25-yard drive was capped by DaMarcus James’ third rushing score of the afternoon.

"With the exception of just a few plays in the game, we gave ourselves a chance to win that game at the end," GSU head coach Trent Miles said. "And I felt so bad for our young men because it didn’t happen. And they’re devastated, but at the same time they’re committed to understanding what it takes and continue to keep working and pounding that rock every day until it breaks. And we almost got it done.

"My hats off to Jacksonville State and their program. They deserved the victory."

Facing a 14-point deficit entering the final quarter, Georgia State got a boost in momentum when cornerback C.J. Scott blocked a Jacksonville State punt and recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown.

On the ensuing kickoff, the Panthers recovered a fumble to start on their opponent’s 13-yard line. Quarterback Ronnie Bell finished the drive by connecting with Robert Davis for his second passing touchdown of the day.

With 2:58 left on the clock, Jacksonville State booted a 34-yard field goal to regain a three-point edge. But the Panthers used those remaining minutes to drive down and allow Wil Lutz to kick a last-second, game-tying field goal to force overtime.

Lutz finished the game 2-for-4 in field goal attempts. After converting the Panthers’ first field goal of the year on a 39-yard try in the first quarter, Lutz barely missed a 50-yard field goal when the ball just glanced off the right upright.

On the first play of the game, Bell hit senior receiver Albert Wilson in stride for a 75-yard touchdown. Wilson finished the game with 158 yards on seven catches and the one score. Wilson also had 97 yards on kickoff returns, 15 yards rushing and 10 yards on punt returns for 280 all-purpose yards.

That play now stands as the fourth-longest play in Panther football history, all of which have involved Wilson. It is also the 12th play of his career covering 50 yards or more.

James supplied a pair of first-half 1-yard touchdown rushes for Jacksonville State to help the Gamecocks build a 20-9 halftime advantage. The Gamecocks benefited from a pair of Panther turnovers, which were both turned into touchdowns.

That included an interception by Bell with less than a minute to play in the half. That set up a 41-yard scoring drive for Jacksonville State capped off by a 5-yard scramble into the endzone by QB Eli Jenkins.

The teams combined for 861 yards with JSU gaining 461 and host GSU 400 yards. The Panthers ran for a season-best 150 yards with Bell scrambling for 79 of those from the pocket.

The game was the sixth overtime contest in Georgia State football history. The Panthers hold a 2-4 record in those games, including a pair of losses to Jacksonville State. The two teams’ first meeting in 2010 also ended in overtime.

Matt Hubbard tied his own school record with an 80-yard punt during the fourth quarter. Hubbard finished with four punts for 183 yards, an average of 45.8 yards per kick.

"As I told them, this is not about fighting and competing. It’s about execution," Miles said. "Our kids were pounding away. I told them in there that they should be disappointed, which they are, but they should be proud of themselves because we keep pounding at that rock. And we don’t know when that rock is gonna break, but we’re going to shatter it pretty soon. And we’re getting closer and closer. We’re knocking chips off that rock to break totally, and we almost saw the result today."

Georgia State will travel to Tuscaloosa, Ala., to face the defending national champion Crimson Tide on Oct. 5.

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