It did not look good at halftime. Georgia State had all the momentum from an impressive second quarter.
But a strong defensive showing in the second half, zero points, a turnover, and a rejuvenated fourth-quarter offense allowed the Red Wolves to escape with a 48-34 victory over Georgia State Saturday night at Centennial Bank.
Georgia State’s only points came on a 100-yard kickoff return by Marquan Green after the Red Wolves had tied the second at 27-27 early in the third quarter.
From that point on the Red Wolves made all the right plays.
“We really didn’t make a whole lot of changes,’’ said Blake Anderson. “There was not magic potent or dust that we sprinkled. We just wanted to see who had the will to win or we were going to have to live with it. The guys responded.”
The Panthers (2-5, 1-2) had five possession in the second half. Two ended on punts, one on Nehemiah Wagner’s interception and two on downs, including a stop on fourth-and-1 at the A-State 22 with 4:40 left in the third quarter.
“They had 3 quarters on us,’’ said Warren Wand, “but we finished and that is all that matters.”
Blaise Taylor’s 53-yard punt return on the final play of the third quarter set up the tying score, which was a 3-yard pass to Tres Houston in the back corner of the end zone, the same corner where he scored twice vs. Missouri.
Wagner’s interception set up the next score. He returned it 13 yards to near midfield. Johnston White scored on a 3-yard run with 8:15 left to put it up 41-34.
The Red Wolves held on down and got their final key possession with 5:39 left. On the fifth play Wand, who had his first 100-yard game, scored on a 50-yard run.
“We just had to bow up,’’ said Xavier Woodson-Luster. “You know we came out a bit relaxed. Thinking it was going to be a pushover but those guys came out swinging. The second half we didn’t make too many adjustments. It was just the attitude check, an attitude adjustment.”
WHAT IT MEANS: Well now we have the showdown. Co-Sun Belt leaders Appalachian State (7-1, 4-0) and the Red Wolves (5-3, 4-0) meet Thursday night in Boone, N.C. The game is on ESPNU.
App State also had trouble Saturday, going triple overtime to defeat Troy 44-41.
The Red Wolves have won four straight and have shown to be a dominant fourth-quarter team in two of those games, USA and Georgia State. They enter the game with momentum and with a victory would be in good shape for the rest of the league race with three of the bottom four teams in the league race remaining on the schedule.
Georgia State finished with 491 yards offense and 47 came on the final drive.
The number was 2 blocked kicks, a field goal and extra point, by Chris Odom.
- J.D. McKissic, 183 all-purpose yards. He caught 7 passes for 82 yards, ran twice for 30 and had 71 in kick returns.
- The Red Wolves had three turnovers. Anderson said the two interceptions were not Fredi Knighten’s fault, one was just a great play by a GSU defensive end and the other a ball that went through Dijon Paschal’s hands. The fumble was the result of a low snap.
- Knighten finished with 224 yards passing (21 of 29) and ran for 54 yards. There were 28 yards in losses.
- Warren Wand had a career high 119 yards on 11 carries. In his last two games he has rushed for 217 yards.
- Dijon Paschal had his biggest night this season, 4 catches for 55 yards including a 26-yard TD grab.
- Xavier Woodson led the tackle chart with 11 stops. Cody Brown had 8 stops and a PBU and Khari Lain finished with 7 tackles, 2 sacks and Ja'Von Rolland-Jones had two sacks and a forced fumble.