News released prior to Saturday’s AutioNation Cure Bowl that San Jose State Defensive Coordinator Greg Robinson would be retiring after the team’s final game and the SJSU defense came out inspired in Orlando.
In the first half, San Jose State allowed only 121 yards, 87 of which came on the Panthers’ single scoring drive. Georgia State managed only one first down in the team’s four other combined drives.
The second half was much of the same - Geogia State was forced to punt on its first four drives while managing only 16 yards and two total first downs.
San Jose State’s offense, meanwhile had trouble taking advantage. Twice the Spartans drove all the way to the Georgia State two-yard line, only to have to settle for 19-yard field goals.
The Spartans’ only touchdown of the first three quarters came on 85-yard punt return for a touchdown by San Jose State’s star running back Tyler Ervin.
Leading 13-7 in the fourth quarter, San Jose State’s missed opportunities were bound to catch up with them. It would happen on a self-inflicted mistake, similar to those that cost the Spartans so many of their games in the 5-7 regular season. This time, it was a punt play in which the snap was high just over the reach of punter Michael Carizosa who lined up in the back of the end zone.
The play resulted in a safety for Georgia State and a poor ensuing punt-off started the Panthers just 36 yards from the end zone. On their fourth play of the possession, quarterback Nick Arbuckle threw his second touchdown pass - this time a 19-yarder to Todd Boyd.
Within two minutes, a 13-7 lead turned into a 16-13 deficit with just over 10 minutes remaining.
Three plays later, however, San Jose State quarterback Kenny Potter made up for an average passing day with a 42-yard touchdown scramble to retake the lead.
Run defense had been a key concern for the Spartans’ struggles this year, but on the ensuing drive, San Jose State stuffed the Panthers on both third- and fourth-and-one at midfield.
Potter and Ervin looked to ice the game with a score, taking possession with just under eight minutes in regulation. The quarterback and running back traded off eight consecutive running plays, leading to a play action pass at the goalline from Potter to tight end Josh Oliver to put the game away.
Oliver had been called in to replace Billy Freeman, who left the game in the opening minutes with an injury.
Potter’s touchdown pass was the highlight of an 89-yard passing day on 10 of 19 attempts with one interception (on a hail mary before halftime). Potter added 62 total rushing yards and a touchdown and was named the AutoNation Cure Bowl MVP.
Tyler Ervin also ended his impressive SJSU career with 132 yards on 30 carries, plus his 98 yards and a score on punt returns. Ervin’s night capped his season as the single season rushing leader in San Jose State history with 1,601 yards - topping Deonce Whitaker’s 1,577 yards in 2000.
Georgia State quarterback Nick Arbuckle was held under 299 passing yards for the second time all year. He managed only 208 yards with 2 touchdowns and 1 interception. Only Appalachian State held him to fewer yards all season at 166.
The Spartans also held GSU to 23 yards rushing on the entire night with 20 attempts. It was the Panthers’ worst rushing game of the season.
San Jose State had finished the season at 5-7, but earned a bowl bid with one of the highest APR scores of five-win teams looking to fill bowl slots. There were not enough six-win teams to fill all of the bowls this year. The Spartans end the season with a 6-7 record overall and San Jose State is now 7-3 in bowl games in school history.