Georgia State coach Bill Curry, after the Panthers defeated South Alabama 27-20 in overtime on Saturday:
Another routine Georgia State University victory. One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do is to try to explain how well our men were working over the last four weeks. Because if you weren’t out there, you would have just thought I was lying and I wouldn’t blame you. These guys have showed up for work every single day and busted it, and I’m talking gut check stuff. We can’t scrimmage a lot because we’ve got way too many injuries but we do what we call ‘thud’ which is hard. And you can slop through it if you want to or you can make it really demanding. We have urged them and promised them that it would pay off. When you are young, you begin to think, ‘Well it’s just never going to work. It’s impossible.’ Then to get into a game like this, you think, ‘Some way they are going to take this away from us.’ That is the inclination.
Football and life teach you that if you have the guts and if you are able to suck it up and go to the next play without reference to the previous one or the previous week or the remarks that other people have made about and to us, because that is what we deserve when we don’t play well that is part of the deal, then you can have some moments like this. What matters now for our program is to build on this and understand that it’s just one step.
There are some really, really happy guys in that locker room. I received a modified Gatorade bath by surprise that caused me to spasm up and down my spinal column. So if I look uncomfortable I really am.
I said this three of four times since we came to Georgia State. There have been several times when I could honestly say I’ve never been more proud of a group of men. It would have been very easy to pack it in these last few weeks. We are new. This is stuff we thought would happen last year. Actually, we played pretty well last year in the fourth quarter. We played hard. Even today, we shot ourselves in the foot again and again but we just kept coming back and making plays.
I’m incredibly proud of Kelton Hill who has had some issues this year that are the most difficult he’s ever dealt with. I only know that because he and I have shared them. He had some extreme misfortune in the game today where he could have packed it in. He could have knuckled under but he wouldn’t do that. Mark Hogan, being a Hogan, and we all know about the Hogans, they don’t ever pack it in. They just keep playing. I’d like to give Mark Jr. credit for it, but I think it’s genetic. I saw the other guy do it a lot of times. So I wasn’t surprised when he did it twice.
I made the call to kick the field goal from the seven yard line on the left hash which is a very easy angle for a right-footed kicker. We’ve never had an issue getting a field goal blocked since we’ve been here. They just knocked us back and their jumpers got up high enough to block it. If I had to make the call again, I would make the same one because that was to win the game. It really tested our mettle and then we came back and blocked so well. Donald (Russell) ran so well. Kelton (Hill) managed the game so well and then Mark made his play again.
Here’s an explanation of the foul. There is a new rule that if you’re under one minute and the offensive unit commits a foul while the clock is running then there is a mandatory 10 second run off. South Alabama came to the ball, actually had a delay of game or a motion penalty which means the play never began and then through the interception. Had they thrown a touchdown, they would have been penalized. The touchdown would have come back. Instead they threw an interception but there was no play. So there was no 10 seconds to run off because the clock was stopped at the time of the infraction.
We’ve gotten some of the strangest and most difficult calls I have ever seen in all my 6,000 years just in the last couple of weeks. We’ve learned a lot about the rules of football and learned a lot about life. I want the men to enjoy it from now until about 7 p.m. then I want them to go study. I’m pretty sure they will do that.
Going back to the game-ending interception, it looked like Jake Muasau came with the pressure that really forced the quarterback to throw it up in the air. It looked like he was getting a cramp worked on after that first overtime. Can you talk about how that symbolizes the ‘never quit’ attitude you were emphasizing?
Well Jake Muasau wouldn’t quit if you cut his leg off. I didn’t know he was having cramp issues. He could have been but it wouldn’t matter. He would drag it out there and play. I had an influential friend whom I respect a lot say, ‘Could you get everybody to play like Jake?’ I said, ‘I wish I could.’ Jake shows up with that. He is addictive. The guys respond to him and they follow him. I couldn’t see for sure who was applying the pressure. I just knew the quarterback had thrown it up in the air. I don’t think I consciously framed, ‘Well Hogan is in the area, so it’s ours.’ I was hoping and praying for it.
Talk about Donald Russell’s play today. He’s had back-to-back monster games.
He had 20 carries for 137 yards. He was up against two backs that we think are near great backs, certainly very, very good backs. Statistically, it was clear who the outstanding back on the field was; it was Donald (Russell). Kelton (Hill) had 14 carries for 60 yards. Parris Lee had 6 for 32 yards and that’s over 5 yards a carry. The offensive line is doing so much better and better every week. Donald makes people miss and then he runs over them. He’s very difficult to bring down. We just thank our lucky stars that he decided to show up. By the way, he’s a delightful, quiet, unassuming young man.
There were a couple of times when South Alabama’s receivers looked like they had the ball go off their hands. With as many balls getting deflected in the air, did that raise a red flag for you guys anytime the ball went in the air?
They did have some balls that went off hands and went up in the air. They also had some incredible catches in traffic when we were covering them as well as we could. We had our hand in there and everything. It really was kind of a mixed bag.
On what this win means for Kelton Hill.
We’ve had some big moments on our team this year. Some of the biggest have involved Kelton and his situation and his relationship with the team. I’m not at liberty to share them but I will tell you that it has been a great life lesson for everybody on the team because of the way Kelton has been so open with his teammates, right in front God, coaches, everybody. So his play today and winning this game is far and away secondary to the other things he’s accomplished in the last couple of months.
Linebacker Mark Hogan
On the win…
“The point we emphasized this week was keeping our poise and composure and to keep playing. We knew they were going to hit some big plays and they did. They made some big runs, but we put that behind us and played the next play. That was the best we’ve done all year at that. We knew they were a smash-mouth, grit-your-teeth football team, so we did a good job of matching up with them physically. On Monday, Coach Thompson said that it doesn’t matter if you play lights out for fifty minutes or terrible for fifty minutes. It’s the end of the game that matters. He put us in a good position to make the plays and we were able to do that when it counted.”
On his interception(s)…
“I ran about 75 yards across the field and turned around and saw everyone was still on the field. We talked it out and had to go back out there and play. On the last play, my ear pad had fallen out, my vision was blurry. I just knew to keep playing and something good would happen. I saw a lot of blue jerseys in the area, so I knew it might be tipped up in the air.
Quarterback Kelton Hill:
On the passing game…
“I worked hard this week with my receivers, staying after practice, getting our timing down. If I had to pick which of the throws I was most proud of, I would say the post to Albert [Wilson]. This means a lot. I want to thank God and Coach Curry for giving me another opportunity to come out and be around my teammates and this into a positive.”
Wide Receiver Albert Wilson:
On his two touchdown catches…
“The corners had been playing off all game. I just gave him the outside feet and he went for it. When I saw the ball coming out of Kelton’s hand, it looked like a punt. The corner jumped like ten feet in the air and it just got over his hands. At first, I couldn’t even see the ball. Then it showed up. The first touchdown was a screen play. We had three wide receivers, two of them blocking, and I ran the screen. Jordan [Giles] picked up the linebacker and Dan [Williams] had a great block on the corner, pancaked the guy, actually. There was just open field from there.”
Running back Donald Russell:
On turnovers and the win…
“It changes the momentum now and then. But like I always say, we’ve got to stay focused. Things are going to happen. We’re going to have some turnovers or some stops. The only thing we can do is stay focused. I’m just happy to get the win. It hasn’t sunk in yet. We’ve had a hard time of finishing. But we showed today that we can finish and come out with the victory.”