Panthers were minutes from shocking the college football world

This story was originally published by The Signal on September 17, 2016.

Panthers were minutes from shocking the college football world
September 17, 2016 Woody Bass

On the day following the harvest moon, a 35 point underdog traveled from Atlanta to Madison, Wisconsin and nearly pulled off the upset of the year over the ninth ranked team in the country.

There is no question that the Georgia State offense hasn’t performed to the level Panther fans have come accustomed to. Head coach Trent Miles has often referred to that as “life after Arbuckle.” He is referring of course to former Panther quarterback Nick Arbuckle, the Sun Belt Conference Student-Athlete of the Year.

To say that Coach Miles was unhappy with the performance of the team’s first two games would be an understatement. He emphatically stated he was “pissed” on the Sun Belt coach’s conference call earlier in the week.

Something was in the air in Madison that brought the Panthers to life and showed flashes of the team many in the media thought this team was capable of. To put things in perspective, the Panthers have averaged 220 yards on offense and have allowed an average of 493 to Ball State and Air Force. Fast forward to Saturday and the Panthers nearly flipped the script against the ninth ranked Wisconsin Badgers.

The defense was without a doubt the story of the game. A week ago versus Akron, the Badgers had 586 yards of offense including 294 on the ground and 292 in the air and had 30 points at the half. The Georgia State defense, who forced several 3 and outs, held the Badgers scoring to six points from two field goals in the first half. Safety Bobby Baker, recovered a fumble forced by Alonzo McGee. They each also led the defense recording eight solo tackles a piece. Chandon Sullivan intercepted Badger quarterback Alex Hornibrook in the fourth quarter.

Conner Manning was 20 of 29 for 269 yards passing his longest on the day for 60 yards to running back Glenn Smith. Smith finished the day with 131 receiving yards. The most welcome sight was the improved play along the offensive line whose pass protection was much improved and also got some push to open up some turf for yards on the ground. Kyler Neal toted the rock for the Panthers for 15 carries for a total of 45 yards. The Panthers improved their on offense by 80 yards over the average of their last two games. That improvement came from the passing game where Georgia State mounted 100 more yards in the air than they averaged against Ball State and Air Force combined.

The Panthers eventually fell to the Badgers 23-17, but with 3:31 left in the fourth quarter, the Panthers still had an opportunity to pull off the biggest victory in Georgia State athletics history. This was a team who may have found their mojo. This was a team who looked like they gained the confidence and belief, like the one who closed out with a 4 game winning streak at the end of 2015. This looked like the team that many thought they had the potential to be.

Georgia State will have a week off before traveling to Boone, North Carolina for their third straight road game at Appalachian State.

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