GSU football snaps 16-game losing streak

Curtis Compton/AJC

It’s rare that a college football seasons starts on a Wednesday. It’s rarer that a team from Georgia kicks off the college football season. That was the case for the Georgia State Panthers as they took on Abilene Christian on Wednesday night at the Georgia Dome, which was the first college football game of the 2014 season.

And it was a game to say the least as the Panthers defeat the Wildcats 38-37 to end a 16-game losing streak.

“Very excited for the Panther family,” head coach Trent Miles said after the game. “Our kids fought through a lot of adversity. They never quit believing. At the end, Will Lutz put it through the uprights and at the end, we had more points than them.”

As Miles mentioned, Lutz, the placekicker for the Panthers kicked a 26-yard field goal with just four seconds left in the game to give the Panthers the lead. However, he would not have had the chance to even attempt the kick if quarterback Nick Arbuckle did not complete a 24-yard pass to LynQuez Blair on fourth-and-19 earlier in the drive.

“I knew the coverage they were going to be in,” Arbuckle said. “I knew the seams would be open. [Blair] is the senior leader on offense. I have a great chemistry with him and I can go to him in the clutch.”

That was not the only time Arbuckle and Blair connected in a key situation. Earlier in the fourth quarter, Arbuckle threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Blair (who caught eight passes for 118 yards) to give cut the Wildcats lead to two. But on the ensuing series, Abilene Christian quarterback Parker McKenzie threw a 7-yard touchdown strike to Cade Stone to put them up by nine with just 6:36 left.

But the Panthers were able to cut the lead back to two when Arbuckle threw a 9-yard touchdown score to Joel Ruiz in just two minutes. The Panthers defense was able to get a stop to give the ball back to the offense for the final drive.

One of the reasons the Panthers had to rally late in the game is the fact they could not get anything going in the third quarter. In fact, that was when the Wildcats took the lead. Midway through the third, McKenzie threw a 23-yard score to Jamie Walker to give them the 23-21 lead. And towards the end of the quarter, McKenzie threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Jace Hudson to give the Wildcats the nine-point lead.

“They are a well-coached team,” Miles said talking about Abilene Christian. “Those kids are winners. They’ve been winning and they’ve had a program around for a long time.”

Abilene Christian, a FCS team, frustrated the Panthers with the passing attack led by McKenzie. He ended the day with 403 yards and four touchdowns. However, Arbuckle, who is a transfer from Pierce College in California, threw for 413 yards and four touchdowns. But the most important state for Arbuckle is the number one because right now the Panthers are 1-0 and he was a big reason for that.

“We ended a big losing streak,” Arbuckle said. “We finally get the monkey off our back. This is a team that’s going to find a way to win at all cost.”

The Panthers also rushed for 168 yards and Krysten Harmon led the way with 78 yards on 13 carries. And the defensive leader for the Panthers was linebacker Joseph Peterson who tallied 11 tackles and one interception. Linebacker Jarrell Robinson also had a strong performance as he notched two sacks and four tackles for loss.

The win for the Panthers marked the first time the team has won a game since November 2012. They will look to make it two-in-a-row on Saturday Sept. 6 when the Panthers take on New Mexico State at the Georgia Dome.

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