Albert Wilson had three 100-yard receiving games a year ago. Saturday, the Georgia State wide receiver got his first in 2012. Wilson caught six passes for 150 yards and two touchdowns for the Panthers against UTSA at the Georgia Dome.
Georgia State remained winless at 0-3, while UTSA improved to 3-0.
Wilson, a junior, helped the Panthers take their only lead of the game early in the opening quarter. Ben McLane hooked up with Wilson for an 84-yard touchdown on State's third play from scrimmage. The play accounted for the longest play from scrimmage in school history, surpassing Wilson's 78-yard touchdown catch from Kelton Hill against South Alabama last October.
UTSA answered with consecutive scoring drives to take a 10-point lead late in the opening quarter. Four plays after an 84-yard kickoff return by Kenny Harrison, UTSA got a 5-yard touchdown run from Evans Okotcha to go up 10-7. Roadrunners quarterback Eric Soza then completed four of five pass attempts, including a 5-yard touchdown toss to Aaron Grubb in the corner of the end zone to make it a 17-7 game.
Soza was 17-of-24 for 206 yards, and 10 different receivers caught passes.
"Great throws gave the guys some opportunities, but the receivers took advantage of those opportunities," said UTSA coach Larry Coker. "Your quarterbacks make your receivers look good and your receivers make your quarterbacks look good."
After a 13-play Panthers' drive ended with a blocked field goal attempt, UTSA got four plays of at least 14 yards during a 10-play drive and Okotcha dove in from a yard out to push the lead out to 24-7 with 5:31 left until halftime.
"You got to give a lot of credit to Texas San Antonio, they made a lot of plays," said Georgia State coach Bill Curry. "But our players fight hard, we fight hard to the final whistle."
The Panthers, playing their second home game of the season, were shorthanded in several areas as starters sat out with injuries. Defensive tackle David Huey, cornerback Demarius Matthews and wide receiver Jordan Giles all missed the game due to injuries, and starting wide receiver Danny Williams was limited by an ankle injury.
The injury problems continued during the game. McLane, making his third collegiate start, left in the second quarter with an injury to his left wrist. McLane returned to guide the Panthers on their final possession of the half, then had an ice pack on his arm and sat out the entire second half.
"Well he ... his left hand is numb. He's a tough guy so he didn't tell us that," Curry said. "He got hit on the forearm, that was why we took him out the first time."
After GSU turned the ball over on each of its first two possessions, backup quarterback Ronnie Bell provided a spark for the Panthers late in the third quarter. Bell had an 11-yard scramble on third-and-seven, then connected with Wilson for a 9-yard completion on fourth-and-six. Bell found Wilson again, this time wide open streaking toward the end zone, for a 25-yard touchdown that cut the deficit to 38-14.
"I asked (McLane) if his hand was numb and he said, 'No, I just can't close it.' So he couldn't catch the ball or take the snaps," Curry said. "So we had to go with Ronnie and he did some great things."
"I was ready to come off the bench and into the game and go out there to the best I can be," Bell said. "I think I showed we have a good backup quarterback, as well as a good starting quarterback, and that I can lead the team if the situation needed me to."
Georgia State's defense came up big on a pair of fourth quarter possessions. UTSA drove from its own 18 to the Panthers' 2-yard line, but couldn't get any further. The 19-play drive was stymied when Soza was tackled for a loss on fourth-and-goal. On UTSA's next drive, CheRod Simpson was stopped on a fourth-down run from the 8-yard line.
"Both (the offense and defense) fought hard the whole game," Curry said. "As I've said repeatedly, we have a gutty bunch, but we're not doing what we have to do. We fight, scratch, bite and it's not enough. But we will continue. The players are responding, the players are giving effort."
UTSA looked poised to put the ball in the end zone on the game's opening possession. Aided by a 47-yard run by David Glasco II in which the tailback broke an initial tackle, the Roadrunners got to the State 5-yard line. But linebacker Jarrell Robinson made a great tackle in the backfield on third-and-two and UTSA settled for Sean Ianno's 26-yard field goal.
Georgia State hosts Richmond in its first CAA game next Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at the Georgia Dome.
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