Camellia Bowl Football

Georgia State quarterback Darren Grainger (3) throws a pass against Ball State during the first half of the Camellia Bowl NCAA college football game Saturday, Dec. 25, 2021, in Montgomery, Ala. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Darren Grainger passed for 203 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 122 yards and a fourth TD to lead Georgia State to a 51-20 victory over Ball State in the Camellia Bowl on Saturday.

The Panthers (8-5) finished with their seventh win in eight games and dominated the lone bowl played on Christmas Day.

Grainger completed 15 of 19 passes and carried 11 times, including a play fake midway through the third quarter when he scampered 34 yards untouched into the end zone. It was the first 100-yard rushing game of his career, and he was named the game MVP.

Ball State (6-7) couldn't summon up many big plays after Drew Plitt's 56-yard touchdown bomb to Jayshon Jackson for an early lead.

Tight end Aubrey Payne had two touchdown catches for Georgia State, along with career-highs of eight catches and 109 yards.

The Panthers defense also supplied two touchdowns: a 37-yard fumble recovery by defensive end Javon Denis and a 55-yard interception return by Antavious Lane that ended the team's 28-point third quarter.

Plitt completed 27 of 46 passes for 293 yards with a touchdown and an interception for Ball State, which was without injured leading receiver Justin Hall. Jackson caught 12 passes for 146 yards.

THE TAKEAWAY

Georgia State: Completed a dramatic turnaround after a 1-4 start that included losses to Army, North Carolina, Auburn and Appalachian State. The nation's No. 8 ground game dominated Saturday, churning out 259 yards.

Ball State: Had a disappointing ending after gaining bowl eligibility with a 20-3 win over Buffalo in the regular-season finale. A failed fourth-and-1 try from its own 34 in the first half led to a field goal. The Cardinals fell to 1-9-1 in bowl games.

MISSING PLAYERS

Ball State was without two offensive line starters —left guard Anthony Todd (injury) and right tackle Damon Kaylor (COVID-19 protocol) — along with Hall. Georgia State starting noseguard Dontae Wilson was also unavailable undisclosed reasons.

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