Though the Panthers of Georgia State lost to San Jose State Spartans 27-16 in the Cure Bowl, the season was still massively successful for the budding Georgia State program. It was definitely the start of something that could be very prosperous for the program.
Let's take a look at Georgia State and how the team fared on offense, defense and special teams in 2015.
Georgia State had one of those offenses that wasn't that great this season, but they were far from terrible, especially in the passing game.
Senior quarterback Nick Arbuckle was the cornerstone of the Panthers' offense. He completed 63.2 percent of his passes this season for 4.368 yards, 28 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
That brings me back to my opening statement. There are some good things here: the 4,000+ passing yards (Arbuckle was seventh in the country by the way) and just 12 interceptions was about middle of the road for those 4,000-yard passers. The 28 touchdowns, though, isn't great. Of the 11 4,000-yard passers in FBS this season, only three threw for less than 30 touchdowns, with all but two of the remaining eight throwing at least 35 touchdowns. The lack of touchdowns also hurt the offense, as it could only muster up 26.9 points per game (79th in the country).
While the team didn't pass for that many touchdowns, they did spread them out, as four players had at least five touchdowns this season: wide receivers Penny Hart, Robert Davis, Donovan Harden and tight end Keith Rucker.
The real story of this group was Hart, who was a true freshman this season. Hart committed to Georgia State (his only offer) as just a two-star recruit out of Alpharetta. He made an impact from the very first game, where he had just one catch: a 53-yard touchdown pass. As the season progressed, Hart just got better and better. In the very next game, Hart had an 11-catch, 150-yard performance with two touchdowns. Hart finished the season with 71 catches for 1,099 yards and eight touchdowns while being named a freshman All-American.
And then there's the running game, which nearly made the offense's grade a C+. Needless to say, the Panthers' running game just wasn't that good, but it was good enough. While there were no standouts, the Panthers had three running backs who went for over 300 yards total: sophomore Glenn Smith (89 carries, 373 and a touchdown), redshirt sophomore Kyler Neal (83 carries, 336 yards and five touchdowns) and redshirt freshman Demarcus Kirk (75 carries, 331 yards and two touchdowns). The team as a whole rushed for just 3.1 yards a carry.
Even though the team finished 6-6 in the regular season, the Panthers defense gave up more points than the offense did all year long, giving up 28.3 points per game. They were decent at stopping the pass (224.5 passing yards per game), but they were pretty abysmal at stopping the run (181.1 rushing yards per game).
The Panthers put up two 100-tackle defenders this season. Inside linebacker Joseph Peterson led the way with 116 total tackles (70 solo). Peterson also added in 9.0 tackles for loss and 2.0 sacks.
Strong safety Tarris Batiste was probably the all-around best defender for the Panthers all season long. He finished with right at 100 tackles (67 solo), while also adding 6.5 tackles for loss and four interceptions (team best).
What really killed the Panthers defense this season was the inability to get to the passer. The leading sacker for the Panthers was defensive end (3-4 DE) Mackendy Cheridor, who had a whopping 3.0 sacks. In a 3-4 defense, it's expected that the rush linebackers will provide the majority of the sacks. Yeah, that didn't exactly happen. The Panthers' best rush linebacker was Alonzo McGee, who had just 2.5 sacks. He added in a team-leading 12.5 tackles for loss, though, so he wasn't terrible. He just isn't what is normally expected from a rush linebacker.
Special Teams: C+
Senior Wil Lutz did the kicking and the punting for the Panthers this year. As a kicker, he was decent, making 12 of his 19 kicks, while also nailing two 50-yarders. Most of Lutz's value, though, comes as a punter. He punted the ball 65 times this season (for comparison, that's the same amount of times he kicked off) and averaged 44.3 yards per punt, pinning 20 of those inside the 20-yard line and kicking 19 for 50+ yards (long of 70). As a kickoff guy, Lutz hit 35 touchbacks.
The return game was a bit of a different story. The punt returns were virtually non-existent. They had 10 total punt returns for 35 yards. The kick returns worked a little bit better though, with freshman Marquan Greene led the way with 16 returns for 389 total yards and a 100-yard touchdown return.
I know what you're thinking. Those grades don't average out to a B- and I know that. And if the Panthers had not made a bowl game, I probably would have opted for a C+ but with the Panthers making the first bowl game in their existence, I gave them the tiny push they needed for a B-.
Overall, this was not a terrible team. Sure they had their issues, but they showed plenty of times that there is plenty of potential. The main game I'm talking about is their journey to Statesboro, where they thrashed the Eagles 34-7.