Georgia State hopes lessons are learned

Georgia State coach Trent Miles hopes his team learned valuable lessons in Saturday’s 34-31 loss to New Mexico State.

First, they need to “learn how to finish and get up on an opponent.”

Second, “We better learn how to hold onto the football and make good decisions with the football.”

The Panthers could do neither in giving up a 17-point lead in the first half, and then a four-point lead in the final 2:30 in losing to the Aggies.

A week after breaking a 16-game losing streak, the Panthers had four turnovers, made numerous mental mistakes on New Mexico State’s game-winning drive, and generally couldn’t get out of its own way in trying to build its first winning streak since its inaugural 2010 season.

The Panthers did overcome three turnovers and a few more non-catalog-able errors in its season-opening 38-37 win over Abilene Christian, an FCS program. They proved too much against New Mexico State, an FBS program.

“We have to stop making mistakes,” quarterback Nick Arbuckle said. “It’s amazing that we can even be in these games when we turn the ball over like we have been.”

Unfortunately for the Panthers, many of those mistakes on Saturday either cost them points, or led to New Mexico State points.

Leading 17-0 early in the second quarter, Georgia State’s defense stopped New Mexico State for no gain on fourth and two at the 46-yard line.

Instead of scoring and putting the game out of reach early, Georgia State’s offense went three plays and out. The Aggies kicked a field goal on their next possession, gaining just a bit of confidence.

Leading 17-3, Arbuckle was intercepted by Rodney Butler, who returned the pass 46 yards for a touchdown to put the Aggies right back in the game. It was one of two turnovers by Georgia State that the Aggies converted into 10 points.

After eventually giving up its lead in the fourth quarter, only to rally with an Arbuckle touchdown with 2:30 left, the defense committed numerous mental mistakes on the game-winning drive. The most egregious was what Miles said was a blown coverage on the game-winning touchdown pass with 15 seconds left.

Those are just an example of the issues that plagued the team throughout.

“We’ve got to execute better,” Miles said. “Those are wasted opportunities.”

Now, the Panther face Air Force. Though not the powerhouse the program used to be, the Falcons are still an established FBS program that is 1-1 this year after losing to Wyoming on Saturday.

“I can guarantee you Air Force will play with discipline and they will embarrass you if you turn the football over,” Miles said.

Despite the loss, Arbuckle thinks there are good things ahead.

He said he’s played on winning teams in the past that, after losing a game early in the season, never again made the same mistakes that contributed to those defeats and didn’t lose back-to-back games.

“We learned how to finish,” Arbuckle said. “I know this team will do the same thing.”