There was jockeying for position, speed and strategy in the Georgia Dome on Saturday — and that was just the work done by Georgia State’s students during the “$10,000 cash drop” at halftime of the Panthers’ game against New Hampshire.
During the game, there wasn’t enough of any of that to help Georgia State, which was beaten 44-21 by the Wildcats. The Panthers dropped to 0-6 in coach Bill Curry’s final season because they continued to make the same types of mistakes the 9,531 fans in attendance have frequently seen this year.
Quarterback Ronnie Bell, making the second start of his career, threw two interceptions, giving him six in the past two games and 10 in 57 attempts this year. He also lost a fumble and was sacked three times. The special teams had a punt tipped. The defense created two turnovers and had two sacks, but still gave up more than 600 yards. It was too many unexplainable errors, Curry said.
“That’s just simply a matter of poise and there’s no excuse and no explanation that helps anybody understand why that’s the case,” Curry said. “We can talk about it but we must get that done in order to compete.”
The game changed on three Georgia State mistakes in the game’s first 31 minutes.
Tied at 7 after New Hampshire missed a field goal, Bell was sacked and fumbled on the next play. New Hampshire recovered on the 21-yard line needed just two plays to score a touchdown to take a 14-7 lead with 12:22 left in the first half. Bell was hit as he was about to throw on the fumble.
“We had a chance to drive up and down the field tonight and stopped ourselves repeatedly,” Curry said. “When we did start to drive it was too little too late and once again the tendency was when the defense did make a stop … we go on the field and almost immediately find a way to turn it back over.”
Georgia State’s offense could do nothing on its next possession. The Wildcats tipped the punt after a man came in unblocked from the edge and took over on the Panthers’ 40-yard line. A few plays later, Nico Steriti scored a 7-yard touchdown to give New Hampshire a 21-7 lead with 8:54 left.
On the first play of the second half, Bell threw a pass right to linebacker Alan Buzbee, who returned it to the 5-yard line. The Wildcats scored a play later on a touchdown pass from Andy Vailas to Justin Mello to take a 28-7 lead.
The Panthers started well.
Georgia State tied the game at 7 on a 54-yard touchdown pass from Bell to Albert Wilson with 11:01 left in the first quarter. It was the Panthers’ first opening-drive touchdown this year. Rolling right, Bell saw the safety had come up the field and waved Wilson to turn up field. Bell led him perfectly.
McLane also threw a pretty, 26-yard touchdown pass to tight Emmanuel Ogbuehi in the fourth quarter to cut New Hampshire’s lead to 38-14.
“We knew we could exploit that seam up the middle, and I came clean and Ben found me,” Ogbuehi said.
Of course, in an example of the Panthers’ inability to play with any consistency, the Wildcats returned the subsequent kickoff 63 yards and scored on a 34-yard run on the next play.
McLane found Wilson for a 47-yard scoring pass with 4:51 left in the game.
Curry intimated that there are going to be several changes to the lineup, with veterans who keep making mistakes replaced by younger players. He also said the quarterback position will be determined by who plays better in next week’s practice.
“I just think we try too hard not to make a mistake,” Wilson said. “If we can calm down and play football like we know we can play football, it’ll be a better season.”
*Note: It was billed as a cash drop, but was actually a voucher drop.
– Doug Roberson, AJC. Please follow me on twitter @ajcgsu