Here are three observations from Georgia State’s 41-19 win at Texas State on Saturday. I watched the game on ESPN3, but it struck me that it was the most complete performance by the offense, defense and special teams that I’ve seen since I began covering the team before the 2011 season.
“Our kids did a great job of coming together and playing four quarters,” coach Trent Miles said. “We preached all week about starting fast and finishing strong. We were able to do that. Our hats are off to our kids. Our defense was outstanding, our special teams were outstanding and our offense was outstanding.”
Quarterback Nick Arbuckle hit another gear against a Texas State defense that, charitably, was horrid. He passed for a school record 471 yards, hitting receivers that were either wide open, or showing a nice touch with passes to those who were covered. It wasn’t just that Arbuckle set a career high, he destroyed his previous mark of 414. Arbuckle set the new record with just 23 completions, and he was intercepted twice in the red zone. One was his fault, one wasn’t (tipped).
Penny Hart (five for 113 and a touchdown), Robert Davis (five for 177 and a touchdown) and Donovan Harden (five for 58 and two touchdowns) ripped apart Texas State’s secondary.
And it wasn’t just the passing game. The running game totaled 172 yards, boosted by the return of Kyler Neal and Taz Bateman from injuries. Bateman had eight carries for 51 yards and a touchdown. Demarcus Kirk had 47 yards on 10 carries as Georgia State totaled a school record 643 yards of offense.
Arbuckle said that the Panthers are starting to see defenses uses coverages that they’ve never used in an attempt to slow down the passing game. He said it happened again against Texas State, and credited the work done by the wide receivers during the week with coming up with different scenarios and discussing how to beat them.
Georgia State had its third solid performance on defense in its past four games. The keys this week were limiting big plays and getting off the field on third downs. Texas State didn’t have a run longer than 20 yards nor a pass longer than 30 yards.
Plus, the defense stopped the Bobcats on 11 of 15 third downs. The Panthers were allowing 43.7 percent conversions on third down.
“Our scheme was phenomenal,” safety Bobby Baker said. “We knew what we had to do and practiced it the right way and came out here and played.”
In three of the past four games, the Panthers have allowed 19, 23 and 19 points, a far cry from 37 scored by Appalachian State and 41 by Liberty earlier this season.
The special teams
After last week’s forgettable performance in the loss to Louisiana-Lafayette that included a blocked punt for a touchdown, two missed field goals and the unsuccessful fake punt, the special teams bounced back with two field goals and no obvious errors. Wil Lutz got four touchbacks on eight kickoffs.
“They are great young men,” Miles said. “They could have come out and felt sorry for themselves and didn’t. They battled, like they’ve done all year long and they got the reward they were looking for. Now you see that building a program happens. You finally get a win that you are looking for. It’s a process and we are very excited about it. We are going to get into the situation where this happens more often.”