Darren Grainger threw for three touchdowns and ran for another to lead Georgia State to its first-ever eight-win season with a 51-20 victory over Ball State in the Camellia Bowl on Saturday at Montgomery, Ala.
Granger went 15-of-19 passing for 203 yards, including touchdown passes of 18, 10 and 16 yards, He also ran for a team-high 122 yards, including a 34-yard touchdown, on 11 carries.
Tight end Aubry Payne had eight catches for 109 yards and two touchdowns, as the Panthers (8-5) used a dominating second half to put away the Cardinals (6-7).
Leading 20-13 at halftime, Georgia State put the game away with a 28-point third quarter while holding Ball State scoreless.
Granger followed a 10-yard touchdown strike to Robert Lewis early in the third quarter with a 34-yard touchdown run for a 34-13 lead. After Payne caught a 16-yard scoring strike from Granger, Antavious Lane returned an interception 55 yards for touchdown on the final play of the quarter for a 48-13 lead.
Noel Ruiz’s 45-yard field goal extended the lead to 51-13 with 9:03 remaining.
Gregg Tucker had 54 yards rushing and Jamyest William added 49 on the ground for Georgia State, which rushed for 259 yards on 41 carries — an average of 6.3 yards an attempt.
Ball State quarterback Drew Plitt went 27-of-46 passing for 293 yards with a touchdown and an interception, while receiver Jayshon Jackson had 146 yards and a touchdown on a Camellia Bowl-record 12 receptions. Plitt also rushed for a 1-yard touchdown to cap the scoring with 3:13 left in the game.
The Cardinals took a 7-0 on their second possession when Plitt threw a 56-yard touchdown pass to Jackson with 8:59 left in the first quarter.
Grainger tied the game when his 18-yard touchdown pass to Payne capped a 75-yard drive with 4:55 left in the opening quarter.
The Panthers’ defense extended the lead to 14-7. Plitt lost the ball while being sacked by linebacker Jamil Muhammad, with defensive end Javon Denis scooping the loose ball and running untouched 37 yards into the end zone with 2:02 left in the first quarter.
After Georgia State took over after stopping Plitt on fourth-and-1 from Ball State’s 34-yard line, the Panthers extended the lead to 17-7 on Ruiz’s 27-yard field goal with 14:11 left in the first half.
The teams exchanged field goals, with Jacob Lewis connecting from 34 yards and Ruiz hitting from 28 yards, before Lewis’ pulled the Cardinals to within 20-13 with a 43-yard field goal just before halftime.
–Field Level Media