It was a beautiful evening on Wednesday, August 27, 2014. Not just because of the weather, but because the Georgia State Panthers kicked off the new season of College Football. Atlanta fans have been craving College Football since it ended at the beginning of the year. Today’s opponent for the Panthers was Abilene Christian Wildcats.
The Wildcats opened up the game receiving. They started from their own 13-yd line. Every time GSU forced a 3rd down ACU’s QB Parker McKenzie found someone in the flat for a 1st down. They eventually settled for a field goal by Nik Grau. ACU ran14 plays for 69-yds.
Once GSU started on offense QB Nick Arbuckle led the charge downfield. The Panthers had 2 big runs by Krysten Hammon just as the offense was starting to find their rhythm. They had success throwing 2 Wide Receiver screens in the flat (by the sideline) but by their 3rd attempt the ACU D snuffed it out and Safety Angel Lopez intercepted the pass.
After a quick 3 and out, the Panthers got the ball back and moved swiftly downfield. With 3 big runs by Krysten Hammon, GSU was creeping into the red-zone. With 2 pump fakes, QB Nick Arbuckle connected with Tight End Joel Ruiz for a 34-yd TD. The Quarter ended GSU 7, ACU 3.
During their drive to start the 2nd Quarter, RB Krysten Hammon left the game due to injury. Fortunately, Kyler Neal picked up where Hammon left off showing progress on multiple draw plays (ran up the middle). After a big gain from TE Joel Ruiz, Neal was able to run it in for a TD from about 2-yds. out.
ACU had the ball just under a minute as Parker McKenzie launched a 60-yd rocket to Cedric Gilbert for a TD. After the converted extra point, the score was now 14-13 in favor of GSU.
GSU had under 2 minutes to score before the half was over. Arbuckle connected deep to Avery Sweeting for the 41-yd TD to end the Half. The score was GSU 21, ACU 16.
The Wildcats regained their composure and kept steady pass accuracy to start the 2nd Half. Parker McKenzie hooked up with Jamie Walker for the TD. So in just a few minutes the Wildcats saw themselves up 23-21.
Things continued to go downhill for the Panthers in the 3rd Quarter. A late hit and personal foul was called on GSU’s Tarris Batiste and was disqualified from the game. On the very next play Parker McKenzie went straight to the end-zone to find Jace Hudson for a 24-yd TD pass. The game was then 30-21, Wildcats.
Finally some luck came for GSU when Joseph Peterson came up with a big time interception and about a 20-yd return. With momentum now on their side, the Panthers’ Arbuckle connected with LynQuez Blair who juked 3 players to get into the end-zone. (GSU is now down 30-28)
With under 8 minutes to play the Wildcats needed more of a cushion in their lead. That’s when McKenzie connected with Cade Stone for a leaping TD by the corner pylon. With this score they were now up 37-28 on the Panthers.
The Panthers quickly marched downfield and Arbuckle connected with his reliable TE Joel Ruiz to shrink the gap to 2 points (35-37). With the Panthers still down by 2 points most thought they would elect for the onside-kick but they opted to go without. So with 4:30 left on the clock the Panthers D had one mission: to stop McKenzie and his offense at any cost.
GSU’s Defense came through in the clutch with a bit of luck on their side. Of all things, when 4th Down came along they were called for a “roughing the kicker” penalty but was offset when the Wildcats were also flagged with an “illegal formation” penalty (the 2 offset). Once all of that was sorted the Panthers quickly found themselves in a 4th and 5 situation. Nick Arbuckle was able to convert with a quick strike. He actually launched a 60-yd bomb to Joel Ruiz for a TD but was called off for an “offensive holding” penalty. So on 4th down with 14 yards to go and 50 seconds left, Arbuckle stood tall and connected on at 16-yd pass for 1st Down. Arbuckle manned-up and ran for 1st down twice to get the Panthers in FG range. Wil Lutz stepped up and made Panther fans’ dreams come true and nailed a 26-yd FG to cap off a 72-yd drive. GSU now had the lead 38-37 and that’s how the game would end.
Georgia State got its first win in the Sun Belt Conference, 38-37 over Abilene Christian.
Photo: Hakim Wright