Air Force won a high-flying affair in the Georgia Dome as the Falcons eased to a 48-38 victory against host Georgia State on Saturday. The 86 combined points were the most ever in a Panther game since GSU started its program started in 2010.
In their first home game against a non-conference FBS opponent, the Panthers kept clawing back, pulling within 45-31 early in the fourth quarter on LynQuez Blair’s second touchdown reception of the game. Blair hauled in TD passes of 15 and 13 yards while finishing with five catches for 74 yards.
Blair’s other score came midway through the third quarter as he helped GSU cut the deficit to 31-17. The teams then traded scores the rest of the way with GSU outscoring Air Force 28-17 in the second half.
The run-oriented Falcons finished with 539 yards of total offense, including 315 on the ground. Air Force made the difference in the passing game where quarterback Kale Pearson was more than efficient, finishing 12 of 15 for 224 yards and two scores through the air. He also ran for just five yards on nine attempts, and added a pair of rushing touchdowns despite running for only five yards on nine carries.
Pearson's second rushing score put Air Force ahead with its largest lead of the game at 38-17 before the Panthers rallied.
Georgia State outgained the Falcons by 10 yards, putting up 549 yards of total offense, the second-highest total in school history. The air game was a large part of that as it was working well behind quarterback Nick Arbuckle. The junior signal-caller finished 26 of 42 in the air, surpassing 1,000 passing yards for the season in just three games. He tossed a pair of TD strikes in the contest and ran for a 1-yard score as the Panthers fell to 1-2 on the season.
Arbuckle’s last completion was a 73-yard catch-and-run to Kyler Neal, and helped Arbuckle tie the school single-game mark for passing yards with 414. He had finished one yard shy of the record with 413 yards in the season-opening victory against Abilene Christian.
When Arbuckle wasn’t pushing the ball down the field through the air, the Panther ground game was effective with first-time starter Neal in the backfield. He had a career high rushing yards in the first half and finished with 80 yards on 10 carries to go along with his three catches for 91 yards.
Neal had the Panthers' first scoring play on a 25-yard rush in the second quarter, one of three rushing scores for GSU on the day. Along with Neal and Arbuckle, Duvall Smith crossed the goal line on the ground, scoring from 2 yards out with the final points of the game with 4:57 to play.
Saturday’s contest was the highest-scoring game in Georgia State history with 86 combined points. The previous record was 80 points in the GSU-Old Dominion (ODU 53, GSU 27) contest in 2012.
RB Kyler Neal had his first career score on a career-long 25-yard run, as he rushed around the left end to pull GSU within 14-7 with 12:49 remaining in the second quarter.
Neal also hauled in a pass he turned into an impressive 73-yard catch-and-run to set up the Panthers’ last score. It was the seventh longest play from scrimmage in school history, and the sixth longest pass play.
RB Duvall Smith also had a career-long rush as he reeled off a 32-yarder in the third quarter that set up the Panthers’ second touchdown. Smith also had a fourth-down conversion late in the third period to keep a GSU drive alive in its own territory. Smith finished with a career-best 50 yards on six carries including his first rushing touchdown.
LB Joseph Peterson’s 200th career tackle came on special teams as he bolted out of the left side to cut the returner short, breaking the school record originally set by Robert Ferguson. He finished with 13 total tackles on the day and has 207 tackles in his three-year Panther career.
TE Joel Ruiz and WR Donovan Harden each finished with at least 90 yards receiving (95 and 90, respectively), marking the second time in three games this year a pair of Panther receivers had at least 90 yards through the air.
PK Wil Lutz recorded his 100th career point during the contest and now has 102 points for his career. He ranks first among placekickers and is second overall in the Panther record book. He trails only Albert Wilson, who owns school record with 156 points.
The captains for Saturday’s game were Joel Ruiz, Sean Jeppesen and Joseph Peterson.
Georgia State hits the road for the first time in 2014 when it heads to Pac-12 foe Washington on Saturday, Sept. 20. The game will kick off at 6 p.m. ET and will be televised live on the Pac-12 Network. It will also be heard on 1340 the Fan 3 in Atlanta