MOBILE, Ala. — When Georgia State’s season began, there was no way to anticipate what the Panthers would get from their quarterback. Cornelius “Quad” Brown was more than a question mark.

That was so four months ago.

On Saturday, the redshirt freshman put his final stamp on a remarkable season by leading the Panthers to a 39-21 win over Western Kentucky in the LendingTree Bowl. The Alabama native completed 15 of 29 passes for 226 yards and three touchdowns in leading the Panthers to their second bowl victory.

Adding to this big finish was Brown being voted player of the game.

“We knew all about Quad,” coach Shawn Elliott said with a laugh. “We knew there would be ups and downs but that ultimately there would more success. He’s got a big personality, and that’s what’s special about him. I love to see him smile, and I’m glad he’s here at Georgia State leading our football team.”

After throwing an interception in the end zone to end the second possession, Brown led the team to touchdowns on their next four possessions. Destin Coates scored on an 11-yard run, then Brown threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to Sam Pinckney, a 5-yard touchdown to Jamari Thrash and an 8-yard touchdown to Cornelius McCoy. Georgia State led 27-7 at halftime.

“After that first interception, I knew we’d get rolling,” Brown said. “(My teammates) picked me up, never lost confidence in my. Coach Elliott came over and patted me on the back and said, ‘You’re ready now.’ I knew guys would make plays, and if I did my job, we’d eventually break it open.”

Brown spread it around, too. He found eight different receivers, with old reliables such as McCoy (five catches, 88 yards) and Pinckney (three catches, 62 yards) leading the way.

Georgia State ravaged Western Kentucky on the ground, too. The Hilltoppers entered the game ranked No. 8 in the nation in rushing defense (170.1 yards per game), but Georgia State had 178 yards by halftime. They finished with 227 yards on the ground, the second-most allowed by Western Kentucky all season.

Georgia State’s Destin Coates regained his form by rushing 23 times for 117 yards, his sixth career 100-yard game. It was the most running yardage for Coates since he picked up 102 against Louisiana-Monroe and his fifth time over 100 yards this season. He was named offensive player of the game.

The Georgia State defense did its part, too. The Panthers were led there by Jontrey Hunter, who had six tackles, recovered a fumble, intercepted a pass and was named defensive player of the game. Antavious Lane returned from missing two games with an injury and intercepted his fourth pass, tying a school record.

“They did a nice job in coverage, so I didn’t fault (Hilltoppers quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome, who threw two interceptions) for where he went with the ball,” Western Kentucky coach Tyson Helton said. “They just made good plays on the ball, and they were going to be tight plays as it is.”

Kicker Noel Ruiz made two field goals and has been perfect on his past eight tries, a school record.

It was the second time Georgia State has beaten Western Kentucky in the postseason. The Panthers also prevailed in the 2017 Cure Bowl and improved to 2-2 in bowl games. Western Kentucky is 8-5 in bowl games.

It was another positive step in the growth of the program, which has been to a bowl game in three of the past four seasons. It’s also a testament to the endurance of the group, which has to walk the COVID-19 tightwire for the past nine months.

“This game means a lot,” Coates said. “Think about what we’ve been through all year. We’ve been working hard for a long time, not even knowing if we were going to have a season. So this game means a lot.”

On the eve of the game, Elliott asked the players to recall the first time they endured a COVID test. Then recall the last time, only a few days ago. And after enduring months of uncertainty, Elliott wasn’t about to let his guys stumble at the finish line.

“We had the opportunity to finish in the right way and that was to come down here to win and win decisively,” Elliott said.

Helton said, “My hat’s off to Georgia State. They are a good football team and just flat-out outplayed us tonight. I thought there were a couple of things early in the game that we did a good job on, but penalties cost us at critical times, and they did all the right things.

“They beat us hands down, they had a good night. We’ll go back to the drawing board.”