San José State Rallies to Beat Georgia State, 27-16, in AutoNation Cure Bowl

 

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ORLANDO, Fla. - Quarterback Kenny Potter raced for a 42-yard touchdown run and completed a 1-yard scoring pass to tight end Josh Oliver in the fourth quarter leading San José State to a 27-16 win over Georgia State in the inaugural AutoNation Cure Bowl.

Potter brought the Spartans (6-7) back from a 16-13 deficit for San José State University's fourth consecutive bowl victory over a 25-year span and the team's second win of the season when trailing in the fourth quarter. During the regular season, San José State overcame a 24-20 deficit at UNLV to win 33-27 in overtime.

The Spartan quarterback rushed for 69 yards on 15 carries and weaved his way past four flat-footed Georgia State defenders for his seventh rushing touchdown of the season to give San José State a 20-16 lead with 9:15 left in the game. The go-ahead drive was a result of Thomas Tucker's season-long 32-yard kickoff return and two carries for 24 yards by Tyler Ervin. The Spartans star running back gained 132 yards on 30 carries to finish the season with a school-record 1,601 yards.

San José State's game-clinching score after Georgia State (6-7) gambled everything on a 4th-and-1 from its 49 yard-line, but came up empty when quarterback Nick Arbuckle's long pass to wide receiver Penny Hart was incomplete.

It was Potter and Ervin teaming up to move the ball downfield on an 11-lay, 49-yard drive that ate up 5:10 and forced Georgia State to use its last two timeouts. The San José State pair alternated seven carries to place the ball on Georgia State's 20-yard line. Then Ervin popped through the middle of the Panthers' defense before being downed on the 1-yard line.

Unlike two other times in the game when San José State settled for an Austin Lopez 19-yard field goal, Potter's only pass of the drive was a wobbly 1-yard scoring pass to Oliver, who saw much more action after Billy Freeman suffered a foot injury on a second-quarter reception, his only catch of the game. Oliver needed all of his 6-foot-5 freshman stature to pull down the throw for the final score of the contest.

The San José State win was in large part due to a spirited defensive effort. The Spartans relied on a defense that was minus starting defensive tackle Tony Popovich, came up with a season-high four quarterback sacks, found ways to frustrate Georgia State's Arbuckle who came into the bowl game passing for 4,160 yards and 26 touchdowns and stopped the run. The Panthers' senior was 14-of-29 for 208 yards and two touchdowns - the only time this season he failed to complete 50 percent of his passes in a game.

Georgia State gained just 23 yards rushing on 20 carries and failed to gain 10 yards on any one rushing attempt.

Though San José State outgained Georgia State, 286 to 231, the Spartans had their struggles, too, on offense, particularly in the red zone. Twice Austin Lopez had to come in and kick 19-yard field goals when San José State stalled drives with the ball on the Georgia State 2-yard line.

The Spartans led 10-7 at halftime with all of the first-half scoring taking up just 4:01 of the second quarter. With the aid of two Georgia State personal foul penalties, Lopez put the Spartans on the scoreboard first with a 19-yard field goal with 11:05 left in the period. San José State missed out on a touchdown when Hansell Wilson dropped Potter's pass in the end zone on 2nd-and-goal from the Georgia State 2-yard line.

The Spartans forced the Panthers into a 3-and-out with Georgia State punter Wil Lutz punting from his 34-yard line. Lutz boomed a 51-yard punt that Ervin caught over the shoulder at the San José State 15-yard line. For the first time this season, the 5-foot-10 senior had room to return a punt, left four Georgia State would-be tacklers on the turf or flat-footed and raced 85 yards for a 10-0 Spartan lead.

Georgia State answered immediately with a 38-yard pass from Nick Arbuckle to wide receiver Donovan Harden culminating an 87-yard, five play drive. Harden got behind Andre Chachere and danced his way to the front right pylon for the Panthers' only first-half scoring play. Chachere would get even with a fourth-quarter interception in the end zone with less than a minute remaining to seal the win.