3 points after Georgia State’s loss to Arkansas State

Georgia State quarterback Nick Arbuckle. (Georgia State)

Georgia State quarterback Nick Arbuckle. (Georgia State)

Because I was part of the AJC team covering Georgia vs. Florida in Jacksonville (what Mark Richt would give for Nick Arbuckle and the Panthers receivers right now), I watched the ESPN3 streak of Georgia State at Arkansas State.

The Panthers (2-5, 1-2 Sun Belt) were beaten by the Red Wolves 48-34 in a game that was much closer than the final score. Georgia State will host Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday at the Georgia Dome.

Here are three thoughts about the game:

The final came down to two sequences of plays, sequences which exemplify the small margin of error Georgia State has. The Panthers were leading 34-27 in the third quarter and had the ball on Arkansas State’s 22-yard line.

One more score would give the Panthers at least a 10-point lead and perhaps force the Red Wolves to make some tactical changes on offense. Facing third-and-1, running back Demarcus Kirk tried to run up the middle and was stuffed for no gain. Coach Trent Miles elected to go for it. It was really less than a yard that the Panthers needed. Quarterback Nick Arbuckle tried to sneak behind the left guard and was stuffed for no gain. It appeared he came up about 6 inches short. You wonder if the Panthers would have picked up the yard if Kyler Neal, who will likely miss the rest of the season with a knee injury, could play.

The second sequence came in the fourth quarter. Now tied at 34, the Panthers were on Arkansas State’s 49-yard line when Arbuckle forced a pass that was intercepted by Nehemia Wagner at the 35-yard line and returned to the 48. Even Georgia State’s announcers were forced to concede that it was a bad decision by Arbuckle, something he hasn’t done a lot of in what has been a very good year statistically for him. The Red Wolves drove for a touchdown to take a 41-34 lead. It wasn’t a pass that Arbuckle needed to throw because it was just second down. But, he did.

Arkansas State has arguably the best defense in the conference along with Appalachian State, so for the offense to score 20 points in the first half is a moral victory. But to be shut out in the second half must be disappointing.

Georgia State’s third-down defense is still poor. Here are the third-down situations Georgia State’s defense faced in the second half with the result:

11 yards: 26-yard touchdown pass.

6 yards: sack for loss of 14 yards.

1: QB sneak for 2 yards.

9: 24-yard run by the quarterback.

3: sack for loss of 1 yard; fumble recovered by Georgia State.

9: 11-yard completion.

1: QB sneak for 2 yards.

3: QB run for 7 yards.

In eight situations, Georgia State’s defense made two stops. It’s hard to stop a team with a running quarterback on third down, particularly when it’s third and short. But Georgia State has to do better on the third-and-longs. In those four situations, Georgia State stopped Arkansas State once.

Finding another running back. Glenn Smith moved from wide receiver to running back and did very well, finishing with a team-high 82 yards on 16 carries. I thought he might move earlier in the season, but Kirk’s return to the team didn’t make moving Smith necessary.

He’s not the biggest running back, but he’s very quick and has a good vision. The emergence of wide receiver Penny Hart and the continued production of the rest of the group meant that Smith wasn’t going to get a lot of snaps.

The team experimented with Smith at running back a lot early in August 2014, but he ended up at wide receiver.

It will be interesting to see if he stays at running back should Taz Bateman return this week from the broken forearm he sustained in season’s second game.

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