It was a dogfight—well big cat and rooster fight-- in the Georgia Dome Saturday as the Georgia State Panthers roared back from a 23-9 deficit to push the Jacksonville State Gamecocks to overtime. In the extra period, Jacksonville State’s DaMarcus James punched it in from 2 yards out to give the visiting Gamecocks a thrilling 32-26 victory.
“They found a way and persevered,” said Jax State head coach Bill Clark. “We demand so much out of them in every way you can and sometimes you worry are we asking too much out of them. But I think they responded and I think that shows up in these close games.”
The Gamecocks defense set up the first of James’ two scores. Trailing 6-0, Ketrick Wolfe poked the ball out of the arms of Travis Evans as the receiver turned to run up field. Free safety Pierre Warren scooped up the fumble and raced down the sideline. Panther’s wide receiver Avery Sweeting pushed Warren out at the 1. James’ 1 yard plunge, ignited the Gamecocks scoring barrage. Jacksonville State scored 20 points over the next quarter and a half to take a 23-9 lead into halftime.
After a 29 yard field goal from Griffin Thomas, the Gamecocks offense fell silent.
Whoever said “silence is golden”, obviously never intended it to be used in a football reference especially since its origin dates back to before the Immaculate Conception. Which should not be confused with another football reference the ‘immaculate reception’ that involved Pittsburgh Steelers running backs John ‘Frenchy’ Fuqua and Franco Harris and some very, very dejected Oakland Raiders.
While the Gamecocks offense was on mute, the Panthers found their voice. Ironically enough, it was back-to-back plays by the special teams that (pardon the pun) kicked off the Panthers run.
“We had to stop the bad things going on and start making good things happen,” said cornerback Brent McClendon.
The good things included a blocked punt for a touchdown and a recovery of a fumbled kick-off that set up a second touchdown. Special teamer C.J. Scott, in X-Games skateboard terms, grabbed some big air blocking the punt from Hamish MacInnes inside the five. Scott stayed with the play recovering the ball in the end zone. Eight seconds later, Jamal Ransby put his helmet on the ball knocking it from the hands of Gamecocks return-man Rashod Byers. Panthers teammates Robert Ferguson and Dontavis Crocker dove for the ball simultaneously with Crocker coming up with it.
Georgia State tied the game at 23-23 on a 10 yard pass from Ronnie Bell to Robert Davis.
Jacksonville State regained the lead on a 34-yard field goal from Thomas Griffin.
With 2:48 left on the clock, Georgia State showed more resolve than in any previous game. Starting at their 29 yard line, Bell navigated the Panthers offense to the Gamecocks 9 yard line. After two failed strikes at the win and less than 10 seconds remaining, GSUs Head Coach Trent Miles summoned Will
Lutz. The sophomore kicker with the defensive lineman’s number sent the game into overtime splitting the uprights from 26 yards out.
In overtime, Lutz had an opportunity to give the Panthers the lead and put pressure on the Gamecocks but his 42 yard attempt sailed wide left.
Jacksonville State didn’t even consider going to their inconsistent passing game. Head Coach Bill Clark fed the Panthers a steady diet of James. It paid off in the end as the Gamecocks got the win to stay undefeated and move to 4-0 on the season. Georgia State remains winless heading into their bye week.
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