ATLANTA — Georgia State’s first-year football program took another step in the maturation process on Saturday.
After taking advantage of overmatched opponents the last two weeks, the Panthers had to play against kids their own size, if not bigger. And they still managed to come out on top.
Georgia State prevailed over North Carolina Central 20-17 in overtime when senior Iain Vance kicked a 33-yard field goal. It was the second time that Vance has knocked down the game-winner and helped the Panthers (5-2) win their fourth consecutive game.
“Every kick you get like that helps,” said Vance, who had a 30-yarder with one second remaining to beat Campbell. “It’s really all about guys blocking every play, every game. You don’t want to go out and pull it left when they’ve been out there driving the ball.”
North Carolina Central (2-4) had the ball first in overtime, but failed to score. After failing to pick up a first down, Frankie Cardelle pushed a 45-yard attempt wide to the left. Georgia State didn’t get a first down, but moved it close enough to give Vance a virtual chip shot.
“I don’t worry about him,” Curry said. “I’ve watched him closely and he’s become an outstanding kicker. I know he’s going to make it.”
Vance, who connected on a 32-yard field goal in the second quarter, has now made 10 of 12 field goals this season.
The overtime was needed after Cardelle ripped a career-best 44-yarder with five seconds remaining in regulation. Cardelle had been hustled onto the field at the end of the game and his kick drifted wide left, but he got a second chance because Curry had called timeout in order to apply additional pressure. Cardelle, who had made only six of 15 field goal tries, took advantage of the mulligan.
The last-minute heroics somewhat negated the touchdown drive engineered by Drew Little in the fourth period. The freshman quarterback led Georgia State to the go-ahead touchdown, a 24-yard toss to Danny Williams that put the Panthers ahead 17-14 with 5:36 remaining. The “stutter-and-go” route was put into the playbook this week specifically for this game and Little was confident it would work.
“We practiced it all week and he ran a great route,” Little said.
Williams wound up with five catches for 103 yards, his second 100-yard game of the season. Little, coming off consecutive games with four touchdown passes, completed 16 of 29 for 205 yards for one touchdown.
“I’m glad to come off 5-2,” Little said. “We didn’t play as well, but we got a ‘W’ and that’s all that matters. That is what is going to go down in the books.”
Georgia State scored its first touchdown with 5:08 left in the third period, which put the Panthers ahead 10-7 and gave them their first lead of the day. Redshirt freshman Travis Evans powered through the middle of the line for a 15-yard scoring run, his third of the season. Evans rushed nine times for 38 yards.
The leading rusher was quarterback Kelton Hill, who plays in the Wildcat situations. Hill ran for 71 yards on nine carries, but had two costly fumbles that killed scoring drives. He also had a 12-yard run in overtime to set up the winning field goal.
“Another routine Georgia State win,” Curry said. “What a wonderful testament for our guys. In order to be a decent program, you have got to win these games. You’ve got to win the games when you come out and you just don’t have it.”