Georgia State opened the game with a long drive, but only managed to go 40 yards in 10 plays. They did take an early 3-0 lead with a 42-yard field goal by Brandon Wright. The Tops answered immediately on the ensuing possession. Mike White hit a wide open Deon Yelder for a 54-yard touchdown pass on the second play of that drive. That would be the longest touchdown play of Yelder’s career.
The quick strikes continued when Georgia State managed to get Demarcus Kirk into the end zone on the next drive. That only took three plays. Aside from a bad fumble by Conner Manning that was recovered by WKU’s Joe Brown, neither team was able to mush else in the first quarter.
WKU tied it up in the opening seconds of the second quarter with a 38-yard field goal from Ryan Nuss. Another long drive followed for GSU and the Panthers added another Brandon Wright Field goal to retake the lead. After a few punts, the Tops began to put together another impressive long drive, but Mike White was strip sacked by GSU and the Panthers recovered. The half would end just after Wright missed a 54-yard field goal attempt.
In case you needed to know WKU ain't the same: Before the end of the half in last year's bowl game WKU ran a cool trick play that almost went to the house. This year they willingly go to the half with 3 timeouts.— Cyrus Smith (@CoolCyWrites) December 16, 2017
In the third quarter, the Panthers waited until their second possession to score on a double flea-flicker. Conner Manning hit an open Roger Carter downfield for the 42-yard score. That would be the only notable play of the quarter.
Here’s the play that put the Panthers up by 10. pic.twitter.com/LuSo6OLRBv— GSU Football (@GeorgiaStateFB) December 16, 2017
The Tops tried to liven things up with a wideout pass play as the fourth quarter began, but Nacarius Fant would be picked off. GSU would then deplete most of the clock with nine minute drive that ended with fullback Kyler Neal punching it in from a yard away.
White would cut GSU lead to ten by getting Yelder his second touchdown catch of the day from four yards out with just over two and a half minutes left. The ensuing onside kick would fail, Georgia State would run about a minute off the clock before punting, and then Mike White would get picked on last ditch attempt at a comeback.
Earlier in the week, my initial thought was that if Western Kentucky wanted to win this game, the offensive line would have to be better than they have been all season. They did not accomplish that task as Georgia State’s defensive line consistently won the battle at the line of scrimmage. The Panthers sacked White 6 times over the course of the day. That’s the fourth time he’s been sacked at least five times this season.
In his final college game, White went 26 of 39 for 359 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. The Tops run game was, as it has been the whole season, tough to watch. WKU would net -2 yards on the ground all day. Georgia State, on the other hand, established a nice balance of run and pass on their way to the win.
The Panthers took advantage of the WKU mistakes by winning the time of possession battle by nearly 11 minutes. That drive that took up two thirds of the fourth quarter was near masterful. Conner Manning’s day finished up 20 of 28 for 276 yards and a touchdown while freshman tight end Roger Carter had the best game of his season with 4 catches for 85 yards and a touchdown. In the running game, Glenn Smith and Demarcus Kirk for 108 yards and a touchdown while Manning tacked on another 24 yards.
For both fan bases, this wasn’t exactly a year that went the way they had hoped overall. But Georgia State gets to end the year on a high note as Shawn Elliott turned the Pathers into a seven win team with some bowl hardware after they went 3-9 in 2016.
The Tops on the other hand send White and a talented senior group off with a 6-7 season and plenty of needs to address over the winter and summer.