The Georgia State Panthers were riding high coming into the Cure Bowl, the first in program history. Unfortunately for them, they'll have to wait for their first ever bowl victory. The San Jose State Spartans were too much for the Panthers on the night, as the tandem of Tyler Ervin and Kenny Potter ran through, around and past the Panthers for a 27-16 win. Ervin rushed for 132 yards on the night, but got the scoring started on an 85-yard punt return for a TD in the second quarter. Potter added two touchdowns, both in the fourth quarter, including a 42-yard run to paydirt that put the Spartans ahead for good.
The Spartan defense was lights out on the nihgt, holding the high-powered Georgia State offense to just 231 total yards. More importantly, they limited Panther quarterback Nick Arbuckle to well below his season averages, ending 14-28 for 208 yards and two touchdowns.
Given the way it started, the inaugural Cure Bowl looked to be a defensive struggle. Neither team was able to cash in on opportunities in the first quarter, which ended scoreless.
It wasn't until Ervin's aforementioned punt return that the game finally had a spark. The TD put the Spartans up 10-0, but the Panthers were able to answer right back with a score of their own. Arbuckle capped off a five play, 87 yard drive with a beautiful 38 yard hookup with Donovan Harden to bring the Panthers to within three. The Spartans led 10-7 at the half.
The third quarter was much like the first, with neither team able to finish drives. The Spartans added a field goal just before the end of the quarter to take a 13-7 lead into the fourth.
The fourth quarter more than made up for the choppiness of other three quarters. The Spartans and Panthers combined for 23 points in the quarter, starting with a bad snap by San Jose State on a goal line punt resulted in a safety. From there, Arbuckle and the Panther offense once again hit the big play. Arbuckle hit Todd Boyd on the bubble screen, and he did the rest for the 19 yard score to give Georgia State the 16-13 lead.
To their credit, the Spartans were able to answer. The Panther defense struggled all night with the San Jose State running game, and it ended up being their undoing. Potter's 42 yard keeper on the ensuing possession allowed the Spartans to regain the lead. Up 20-16, the Spartan defense then came up big. The Panthers had excellent starting field position on their next possession, but the Spartan defense forced Georgia State into a 4th and 1 situation. In what proved to be the turning point of the game, Arbuckle overshot Penny Hart up the seam, giving the ball back to the Spartans. From there, Ervin and Potter chewed up the clock, driving all the way down to the Georgia State one yard line, where Potter found Josh Oliver on the play action pass for the score, giving the Spartans a 27-16 lead.
Arbuckle was intercepted on the Panthers final drive, sealing the win for the Spartans.
For as hot as Georgia State was coming into this one, it was the San Jose State defense that really shined. The Spartan secondary totally erased Penny Hart, who led the Panthers in receiving on the season. They held him to just one catch for 14 yards, and while Arbuckle did make some plays through the air, the Spartans made him work for everything. They also held the Panthers to just 23 yards on the ground.
As for Georgia State, even though they came up short in their first ever bowl appearance, it was still a good showing for a really fun and successful season. The program is still very much in its infancy having just started in 2010, and only has been on the FBS level for three years. While claiming a victory would have been nice, just making a bowl speaks to the feasibility and direction of the program. With a talented core group of players and a culture that is growing every day, the Panthers are definitely on the right track.