Panthers’ rally falls short in overtime

Johnny Crawford/AJC

For a moment it looked like the Panthers were going to come away with their first victory of the year. But they could not finish the rally, falling to Jacksonville State 32-26 in overtime on Saturday at the Georgia Dome.

Trailing 23-9 in the fourth quarter, the Panthers scored two touchdowns in two minutes. Cornerback C.J. Scott blocked a Jacksonville State punt and recovered it in the end zone. On the ensuing kickoff, the Panthers recovered a fumble and quarterback Ronnie Bell threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Robert Davis to tie the game at 23.

Both teams exchanged field goals to end regulation tied at 26. Georgia State stated overtime with possession but could not turn it into points because Will Lutz missed the 42-yard field goal.

That gave Jacksonville State the opportunity to win the game, and they did just that as DaMarcus James scored on a 2-yard run.

“Tough for our young men,” Georgia State head coach Trent Miles said after the game. “As I told them, this is not about fighting and competing. It’s about execution. 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.”

The Panthers started the game strong as they scored on the first play of the game Bell found Albert Wilson for a 75-yard score to jump to a 6-0 lead.

The Gamecocks took the lead later in the quarter when James scored a 1-yard run. That series only lasted one play for one yard because the Gamecocks forced a fumble a play earlier.

The Panthers did answer back on the ensuing drive as Lutz kicked 39-yard field goal to lead by two. Lutz finished the game going 2-for-4 on field goal attempts. The other miss came in the second quarter after James scored his second touchdown of the game to give Jacksonville State the 13-9 lead. Lutz missed a 50-yarder on the ensuing drive.

The Gamecocks were able to add more insurance to their lead late in the second quarter when Eli Jenkins scored on a 5-yard run. That scoring drive was setup when Bell threw an interception to Jamill Lott which was returned to the Panthers 41-yard line. Jacksonville State had 122 yards on the ground as well as four rushing touchdowns. The Panthers outrushed the Gamecocks with 150 yards on the ground, which was a season best but had no rushing scores.

The Panthers did enough to win the game, but did not make the necessary plays at the end.

“Down 14 in the fourth, we found a way you know,” Miles said. “But it was our job as coaches to lead them and get them going to when they can get their victory. I can tell you that it’s getting really really close. Our young men are going to win games.”

Wilson led the Panthers with 158 receiving yards on seven catches and one touchdown. His 75-yard touchdown catch is the fourth-longest pass play from scrimmage in school history.

Bell finished the day 16-of-41 with 250 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. His 57 rushing yards were a career high and his 17-yard run late in the fourth quarter was the longest run of his career.

This game was also the sixth time in school history the Panthers have played in overtime. They have a career record of 2-4 in overtime games.

The Panthers fall to 0-4 and will have next week off. They will be back in action on Oct. 5 when the travel to Tuscaloosa to take on Alabama.

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