South Alabama extends their homecoming undefeated streak to 6-0 after surviving against Georgia State in a game that saw five lead changes in the second half. Brandon Bridge drove the Jaguar offense 85 yards in three plays with under five minutes left in the game retake the lead for good 30-27.
The Jaguars struggled on offense as Brandon Bridge was only 11-of-32 for 126 yards, but the team rushed 54 times for 321 yards to roll up 447 yards of total offense against the Panthers. Georgia State put up 401 yards of total offense, 311 of them through the air, as Nick Arbuckle went 23-of-40 and three touchdowns. But the Panthers could only manage 90 yards on the ground.
South Alabama's secondary had problems containing Donovan Harden and Robert Davis as the former caught 10 passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns while the later caught four passes for 108 yards. Joel Ruiz added seven more receptions for 75 yards and a touchdown.
Gerald Howse was the Panthers leading rusher with 53 yards on 13 carries. Arbuckle had 19 yards on 15 carries and was sacked five times by the Jaguar defense.
Wes Saxton, Danny Woodson II, Braedon Bowman and Xavier Johnson all caught two passes each with Saxton leading the group with 31 yards but Woodson's touchdown late in the fourth quarter put the Jaguars ahead for good. Shavarez Smith was targeted several times, but only had one catch in the game for a 15 yard touchdown.
Brandon Bridge carried the ball 15 times for 137 yards which included the huge 65 yard run late in the fourth quarter to set up the go-ahead touchdown pass to Woodson. Jay Jones carried the ball 16 times for 71 yards, redshirt freshman Xavier Johnson had nine carries for 58 yards and Kendall Houston gained 55 yards on 12 carries.
South Alabama took the opening kickoff and drove it 76 yards in 16 plays, capped off by a 5 yard touchdown run by Bridge, to open the scoring. But the Panthers would respond with a touchdown of their own less than a minute-and-a-half later after a pump fake by Arbuckle froze the corner, leaving Harden open for a 44 yard touchdown.
Trailing 14-10 at halftime, the Jaguar defense came out of the locker room hot and forced a three-and-out after Theo Rich got one of his three-and-a-half sacks in the game. After a 27 yard punt, the Jags would take four plays to cover 41 yards to regain the lead 17-14.
Georgia State would respond with a touchdown to go up 21-17.
The Georgia State defense would bend but not break by keeping the Jaguars out of the end zone, but allowing Aleem Sunanon to make two out of his next three field goal attempts, the final one retaking the lead 23-21 early in the fourth quarter.
The Panthers would answer back with an 11 play 76 yard drive for a touchdown but they would miss the two-point conversion leaving them clinging to a 27-23 lead with 9:48 left.
On the next Georgia State possession, they would drive down to the Jaguar 41 before the South Alabama defense stopped the Panthers. A short punt would pin the Jaguars at their own 15 yard line. But on the first play of the drive Bridge would take off for a 65 yard run to put USA at the Georgia State 20 yard line with less than five minutes to go. Two plays later Bridge would connect with Woodson for the go-ahead touchdown.
Then the two teams got chippy.
Woodson was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after his touchdown, which would be assessed on the ensuing kickoff. On the kickoff, an unsportsmanlike conduct call on Georgia State on some extra curricular activity prompted Berron Tyson to throw a right-hook which connected with the Georgia State player who committed the penalty. Tyson was ejected from the game, rightfully so (and I guarantee you he will regret that error in judgement for a while).
The Jaguar defense would stop the Panthers one more time and get the ball back on downs with under three minutes left in the game.
Terrell Brigham led South Alabama with 10 total stops, Roman Buchanan added nine and Theo RIch had eight stops, a career high, with his 3.5 sacks.
Tarris Batiste led the Panthers with 11 total stops while Joseph Peterson and Trey Payne both adding 10 stops.
Player of the Game
Brandon Bridge - Trailing for most of the game, he made good decisions with the ball and had several receivers open but either overthrew them or just missed them. However, his 137 yards of rushing offense, including his 65 yard run to set up the go-ahead score, lifted him to 'Player of the Game' status.
Georgia State falls to 1-6 overall and 0-4 in conference play. They will host Georgia Southern in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta for a 2pm game on Saturday, October 25.
The win improves South Alabama's record to 4-2 overall and 3-1 in conference play as they get set to host in state rival Troy on Friday, October 24 at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.