Georgia State came close, but once again a combination of its own mistakes resulted in a 35-21 loss to Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday afternoon at the Georgia Dome.
Two turnovers near the end zone, two failed fourth downs and a few penalties in the fourth quarter contributed to drop the Panthers to 0-10 this season.
“Our kids battled their tails off,” coach Trent Miles said. “Unfortunately, you can’t turn over the ball twice in the red zone. Even with that, we put ourselves in position to win a game and just weren’t able to do it.
“You always have to overcome things, and sometimes it’s yourself you have to overcome.”
Georgia State’s quarterbacks were solid, with the exception of two plays. Starting because Ronnie Bell sat out the first quarter (academic issue), Ben McLane fumbled untouched on third-and-goal at the 3-yard line in the first quarter. Louisiana-Lafayette recovered on the 12.
In the second quarter, Bell tried to force a pass into tight coverage. The pass was intercepted on the 1-yard line, stopping another scoring drive. Bell said that he and wide receiver Robert Davis didn’t communicate well. Bell said Davis thought the pass was going to be thrown to a different spot.
The Cajuns marched 99 yards for a touchdown and a 21-7 lead. Bell completed 19 of 34 attempts for 229 yards and two touchdowns as the Panthers rolled up 481 yards.
“A few mistakes cost us the game,” Bell said. “Our problem today was in the red zone. Two turnovers could have been 14 points. It could have been a different outcome to the game.”
Trailing 28-21 early in the fourth quarter, the Panthers lined up to punt on fourth-and-10 at the 50. Instead of kicking, punter Matt Hubbard took the snap and sprinted left. Twelve yards later, he had the first down at the 38. The Cajuns also were penalized for a late hit, setting up Georgia State with first-and-10 on the 23-yard line.
The Panthers appeared ready to tie the score.
But winning can be hard when a team has won one game in two years.
Facing fourth-and-3 on the 16-yard line, Miles decided to gamble again. This time, freshman running back Kyler Neal was stopped after 2 yards on an off-tackle run to the left. Miles said Neal was running well, and at 212 pounds had the necessary size to gain tough yards.
Even if he wanted to switch to a more experienced player, Miles said they were at the line and ready to go, so there was no time.
Louisiana-Lafayette took over and added to its lead.
Taking advantage of two consecutive pass-interference calls, the first of which also resulted in an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty against linebacker Tarris Batiste, Louisiana-Lafayette answered with a touchdown. Rolling right, Terrance Broadway hit Jamal Robinson for a 13-yard touchdown and a 35-21 lead with 7:58 left.
On their next possession, the Panthers moved to Cajuns’ 32-yard line before four consecutive incomplete passes stopped the drive and ended the chance to rally with 6:12 left.
“They are not an 0-fer football team,” Miles said. “I truly believe that. They are in the process of getting better and better every game. It’s not resulting in wins right now, but it will.”