Back Panthers Persevere

Panthers Persevere

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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When Sean Jeppesen tackled Wildcat return man De'Andre Brown as time expired, two seasons of frustration came tumbling down.

There are going to be times when we’re down against the ropes and we believe no matter what until the clock hits zero.
~Trent Miles

The past few years, Georgia State fought hard, but seemingly found ways to lose football games -- a difficult, but very real part of a young program's progression. Late Wednesday night, in the Panthers' nationally-televised season-opener against Abilene Christian, it looked as if a team on a 16-game losing streak was in for more late game disappointment. After the sheer devastation of a holding call on what-would-have-been a go-ahead 58-yard touchdown pass, then a following incompletion, Georgia State faced an improbable 4th-and-14 with under a minute left to play.

With tensions mounting in the Georgia Dome, the Panthers were then whistled for a false start. As the sighs and exhales came and a 4th-and-now-19 loomed, quarterback Nick Arbuckle went Nick Marshall and found Lynquez Blair on a gutsy 24-yard first down strike. Arbuckle would run the Panthers down inside the 10-yard line where kicker Wil Lutz converted a 26-yard field goal with just a few seconds left.

“It shows the resiliency of our young men. You had your emotions go up, and then all of a sudden you look and see a flag and you have to do it again. They believed and stayed steady keel," coach Trent Miles explained. "There are going to be times when we’re down against the ropes and we believe no matter what until the clock hits zero. It just showed that they can gather their senses, gather their emotions, and come right back at it.”

When Sean Jeppesen tackled Wildcat return man De'Andre Brown as time expired, two seasons of frustration came tumbling down.               

"We have a one-game winning streak," Miles smiled.

Georgia State has plenty of progress left to make. Beating FCS-newcomer Abilene Christian is merely a starting point. That said, now there is positive traction. Miles' vision just became a bit more clear. The college football community, and potential recruits, got to see the Panthers take very real steps forward. 

The challenges will soon become more significant. In week two, Georgia State opens Sun Belt play with newcomer New Mexico State. Non-conference pairings await with Air Force, then Washington. The Panthers will return to their league schedule with the top two teams from the Sun Belt a year ago in Louisiana and Arkansas State. A mid-season meeting with Georgia Southern has long been circled on the calendar. Georgia State will start November with consecutive road games at Appalachian State, Troy and Clemson. 

From here on out, the margin for error decreases and the evaluation becomes more strict.    

Wednesday night was a feel-good finish for a group of pigskin pioneers still building the infrastructure in Atlanta. It might be an overreaction to say one win changed the program's culture. For now, it has changed moods and, maybe, some opinions.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports