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Fresh off first win in history, Georgia State comes back to earth in loss to NAIA Lambuth

Georgia State head coach Bill Curry shouts from the sideline during Saturday's loss to Lambuth.

Georgia State head coach Bill Curry shouts from the sideline during Saturday's loss to Lambuth.

ATLANTA -- After making history with a win in the first football game in Georgia State history, the Panthers made more history Saturday against Lambuth.

Unfortunately, it wasn't the kind of history they were looking to make.

Lambuth University, a nationally-ranked NAIA team from Jackson, Tenn., scored twice in an 18-second span in the final three minutes to steal a 23-14 win before an announced crowd of 12,647 at the Georgia Dome.

B.A. Davis scored the eventual game-winner with a 4-yard touchdown run with 2:27 left left and Darius Buckley to lift the Eagles (1-1), ranked No. 7 in the NAIA national coaches poll, and send the Panthers (1-1) to their first defeat in school history.

But from coach Bill Curry's perspective, the game boiled down to much more than those last few minutes.

"When you're beaten on both sides of the ball at the line of scrimmage, you're not going to win many times," Curry said. "The one thing we did do was to fight back coming out after the half. And when we took the lead, I was sure we would win.

"Instead of us dominating and taking over the game, Lambuth dominated and took over the game. We made the mistakes. They knocked us off the ball. ... They simply outcoached us and beat us (Saturday)."

The Panthers did fight back after a dismal first half in which they couldn't even manage a first down and ran just 14 offensive plays and possessed the ball for only 8:45, compared to 42 plays and 21:15 for Lambuth.

But with GSU trailing 9-0, backup quarterback Kelton Hill came on in relief of starter Drew Little and finally gave the offense a shot in the arm on the second possession of the third quarter.

The 6-foot, 183-pound redshirt freshman escaped pressure after dropping back to pass, found a hole and sprinted 53 yards before being dragged down at the Lambuth 2.

Two plays later, Travis Evans barreled into the end zone from 2 yards out, and kicker Lain Vance added the extra point to pull the Panthers to within 9-7 with 8:12 left in the third quarter.

A defensive stop later, and GSU had the ball back and went to its bag of tricks to get on the scoreboard again.

After three plays brought the ball to the Lambuth 39, Hill rolled to the right and pitched to tailback Rosevelt Watson.

The 5-9, 205-pound redshirt sophomore pulled up and fired a strike to Danny Williams for the touchdown to give the Panthers their first lead of the day at 14-9 with 6 seconds left in the period, and seemingly, all the momentum.

"I think it changed the game a lot," Watson said. "It gave us a lot of momentum (and) a big boost. But at the end of the game, it didn't work out."

The Lambuth offense would make sure the momentum wouldn't stay with GSU.

Still trailing 14-9, Lambuth took possession at own 31 with 10:48 to play and marched 69 yards in 17 plays, draining 8:21 off the clock.

Finally, Davis pounded in for his touchdown to give the Eagles the lead for good at 16-14 with 2:27 left.

"I think we were conditioned enough to make it through the fourth quarter," said sophomore linebacker and Dacula grad Brad Chahoy. "But we couldn't put it together at the end. That's what got us."

The long day for the Panthers defense actually started as Lambuth took the opening kickoff and rumbled 70 yards in 10 plays.

A fourth-down conversion inside GSU territory kept the drive alive and Marquis Williams finished it off a play later with a 23-yard touchdown.

The extra point was no good, but the Eagles had a 6-0 lead with 9:39 left in the first quarter.

The defense actually tightened up from there, forcing two turnovers and keeping the Panthers close.

But the lack of offensive production -- just five first downs and four interceptions by GSU quarterbacks -- made the defense stay on the field 42:02 of the game's 60 minutes, a statistic not lost on Curry.

"The most disappointing part was for us to take the lead in the fourth quarter and relinquish it on a long drive that we could've stopped many times," Curry said. "It was devastating (spending so much time on the field). I don't care who you are. Even if you have a great defense, you get worn down by having to go out there over and over and over. ... There's no question that we wore out our defense."