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Hot Read: Panthers Fall in Cure Bowl

By Jim Johnson
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SJSU won the inaugural Cure Bowl 27-16 over Georgia State.

1. This was the greatest Cure Bowl of all-time! Technically, it was also the worst ever, by default, but, you know, glass half full. In all seriousness, the inaugural AutoNation Cure Bowl was a success, by my own estimation. The game was competitive from the kickoff to the final whistle, and while these are by no means the nation's elite teams, the end product did not disappoint.  Plus, more importantly than any football game, the bowl was representative of a great cause. Between the first and second quarter, title sponsor AutoNation, as part of their Drive Pink Campaign, presented a check for $1,000,000 to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF). Then, during halftime, the Orlando Sports Foundation presented a check to the BCRF for $150,000 -- representing the largest single donation ever made by a bowl game to a charitable cause.

2. What an incredible, magical season for the Georgia State Panthers. Trent Miles and his own players might not have even expected the level of success achieved during their 2015 campaign. If you would've told me before the season that GSU would be playing in a bowl game, come December, I would've recommended you spend sone time in a padded cell, for your own safety as well as everyone else's. Yet, here we are. Through the Panthers' first two seasons in FBS, they had a combined one win. They've come leaps and bounds since then, in an unfathomably short amount of time, culminating in the regular season finale, where they kicked in-state rival Georgia Southern up and down its own home field. Despite ending the year on a loss, this season let everyone know that the days of Georgia State being the Sun Belt doormat are over.

3. Special teams were a major determinant in the outcome of the Cure Bowl. Each team went through its own ups and downs in that facet of the game. The first touchdown of the game was an 85-yard punt return by San Jose State's special teams supernova, Tyler Ervin, who entered the game trailing only Christian McCaffrey in all-purpose yards per game. Then, in the third quarter, after cutting the deficit to 13-7, Georgia State blocked a punt out of the back of SJSU's own endzone, resulting in a safety, and ultimately another touchdown when the Panthers scored again on the succeeding drive. Not to mention the fact that there's an argument to be made that Wil Lutz was GSU's best player tonight. The senior averaged 47.5 yards per punt, including a long of 70 yards, 3 punts of 50+ yards, and 3 punts downed inside the 20.

4. Nick Arbuckle looked out of sorts against San Jose State, who entered the contest boasting the nation's second ranked pass defense. The Sun Belt Player of the Year was brought down for a sack four times, hurried twice, and held to his second lowest yardage total of 2015. This was also the first time this season that Arbuckle failed to complete more than half of his pass attempts, and only the third time during his entire career. Having said all that, I think he is one of the most underrated quarterback prospects in this coming draft class, which as it is does not boast any particularly standout signal callers. If given the proper opportunity I wouldn't be stunned if Arbuckle earned an NFL paycheck in 2016, even if its just on a scout team.

5. If anything killed the Panthers it was disparity in time of possession. Interestingly enough, this was not really an issue for GSU most of the season. They just couldn't figure out how to get Tyler Ervin and the rest of the Spartan offense off the field. Between Ervin and Kenny Potte, SJSU was just too steady in the run game for the Panthers to do much. Still, they put forth a valiant effort, and realistically had an opportunity to mount a comeback in the last few minutes.

Jim Johnson - Editor of Southern Pigskin, Producer of "Three & Out", and host of "Explosive Recruiting" on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network. E-mail: Twitter: @JimJohnsonSP