Georgia State hopes to build on win

Even Georgia State coach Trent Miles said his team made it harder than necessary, but the Panthers emerged with a 34-32 win over New Mexico State on Saturday in Las Cruces, N.M.

The victory, the team’s first this year, wasn’t secured until the Aggies missed a 49-yard final game with 29 seconds left.

“These kids never quit, never quit believing,” Miles told the school’s sports information department. “We just needed to get over the hump and tonight we got over the hump.”

The win checked several boxes:

  • First win over an FBS team;
  • First road win under Miles, who was hired following the 2012 season;
  • First Sun Belt Conference win;

It was just the second win for Miles at Georgia State, which made Saturday’s success resonate even more. Miles thanked a large group of people after the game, starting with his wife Bridget, the families of the coaches, the administrators all the people that support the school’s athletics department.

“… the Panther family, just keep sticking in there,” Miles said. “We are going to win a bunch of games.”

Georgia State's offense was sparked by quarterback Nick Arbuckle, who led them to a school-record 582 yards. Arbuckle tied his own record with 32 completions. Penny Hart tied a school record with 11 catches totaling 150 yards and two touchdowns. A quartet of running backs combined to help the Panthers grind out 210 rushing yards, its most under Miles and the most since 274 yards against Rhode Island in 2012. Three of the backs – Kyler Neal, Taz Bateman and Marcus Caffey — left Saturday's game with injuries. Bateman is out for the season. The offense finished with DeMarcus Kirk, a UAB transfer who hasn't played in a game in two years and missed most of fall camp, as the running back.

“We’ve been talking about it all summer, how many playmakers we have on this team,” Arbuckle told Georgia State’s sports information department after the game. “They did an amazing job stepping up for those guys that are banged up. We are going to work our butts off to make sure there’s a lot more to celebrate.”

The defense was led by cornerback Bruce Dukes, who set a school record with six pass breakups. The team had 12 breakups. Dukes also had an interception that would have sealed the game on New Mexico State’s final drive, but was overturned because of a facemask penalty called against Carnell Hopson.

“We worked as hard as we could from January until now,” Dukes said. “We are going to stay together and keep pushing together.”

As Miles said during his interview with Georgia State, the win did have warts. Though most are correctable because they were mental mistakes.

Two turnovers by the offense – a fumble by wide receiver Robert Davis and one by Caffey — contributed to 14 points for New Mexico State. Two more big plays by the offense were wiped out by penalties. Wil Lutz also missed a short field goal.

Though the defense played better than last year, particularly against the run (84 yards) and with impact plays (two sacks, an interception, blocked extra point), it had trouble defending the pass. The Aggies had completions of 75, 33, 24, 22 and 21 yards that were part of 529 total yards. A few of the long pass plays were the result of either busted coverages, a mental mistake or, in one case, a defender falling down on the Aggies’ last touchdown pass.

Now Georgia State must improve those errors and fine-tune the things it did well ahead of next week’s game at Oregon. It’s a tough place to try to put together a two-game winning streak. There’s some solace in that the Panthers will receive $900,000 for the game.

“We will take advantage of the win by continuing to work hard, play hard and go out and play,” Miles said. “We are going out to try to win the game.”