Kenny Potter scored on a 42-yard run and threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to Paso Robles High grad Josh Oliver in San Jose State’s 27-16 comeback victory over Georgia State on Saturday night in the inaugural Cure Bowl.
Austin Lopez kicked a pair of 19-yard field goals, and Tyler Ervin returned a punt 85 yards for a touchdown for the Spartans (6-7).
Ervin had 30 carries for 132 yards to become San Jose State’s single-season rushing leader with 1,601. He also set the mark for most all-purpose yards in a season with 2,637.
San Jose State was one of three teams given bowl berths despite losing records. The Spartans were awarded their postseason spot based on their Academic Progress Rate of 975. Coach Ron Caragher’s players came into the game determined to show they belonged in a bowl.
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“We knew we weren’t a 5-7 team,” linebacker Christian Tago said. “We just wanted to prove to the world what we were all about and how we play football.”
It was the fourth consecutive bowl win for the Spartans, who also claimed victories in 1990, 2006 and 2012.
Georgia State’s Nick Arbuckle threw for 208 yards and two touchdowns, including a 19-yard scoring pass to Todd Boyd that gave the Panthers (6-7) a 16-13 lead early in the fourth quarter. Arbuckle also threw a 38-yard touchdown pass to Donovan Harden, and set a Sun Belt Conference record for single-season passing yards with 4,368.
However, the Panthers were held to 231 yards of offense — just 23 yards rushing — by a San Jose State defense that sacked Arbuckle four times and used a three-man front and different coverages that Arbuckle said he had not seen the Spartans use all year on film.
“They did a great job of adjusting their stuff to what we were going to try to do and taking away, basically our entire game plan,” Arbuckle said.
With San Jose State leading 13-7, Spartans punter Michael Carrizosa set up to punt in his own end zone. The snap was high and Carrizosa could not bring it down, leading to a safety.
Georgia State’s Donovan Harden then returned the ensuing kick 24 yards to the San Jose State 36. Arbuckle converted the great field position, hitting Boyd with a 19-yard touchdown to put the Panthers up 16-13 with 10:46 remaining.
Potter then broke loose for a 42-yard touchdown run to put San Jose State back on top 20-16. It was Potter’s seventh rushing touchdown of the season, tying the school’s single-season record. It also was his sixth run of more than 30 yards.
Potter’s 1-yard touchdown pass to Oliver was the tight end’s fourth reception of the year and his first touchdown catch.
Game sponsor AutoNation presented a $1 million check to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation following the end of the first quarter. At halftime, the Orlando Sports Foundation presented the BCRF with a check for $150,000. It is the largest donation ever made by a bowl game to a charitable cause.
With players and coaches on both teams having been effected by cancer — San Jose State safety Simon Connette lost his mother to the disease last spring and Carrizosa’s mother is fighting it – the game took on a special meaning.
“This was a game for a cause,” said Georgia State coach Trent Miles, who has had five members of his family diagnosed with cancer
“Yes, it was for young men to go out and play, but it was for cancer awareness and finding a cure. Anytime you can contribute to that, it means a lot and it makes it a more special event.”