The AutoNation Cure Bowl benefitting the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF), used the slogan “We Can Tackle This.” Georgia State did just that.
The Georgia State Panthers won the 2017 Cure Bowl over Western Kentucky 27-17. This was the first bowl win in school history. Playing in their second AutoNation Cure Bowl in three years, the Panthers (7-5, 5-3 Sun Belt) relied on their steady defense to stymie the Hilltoppers (6-7, 4-4 C-USA) and their passing offense that ranked ninth in the nation.
In this match up of two high powered offenses, the Panthers managed to stifle the Hilltoppers with 6 sacks in the game. The Panthers also had eight tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and two interceptions on the day, including one that stopped a late drive by the Hilltoppers to seal the win with 38 seconds remaining. The final pass of the game was intercepted by Chase Middleton, a junior linebacker who had a sack, a fumble recovery and six total tackles to go along with the game-ending interception.Penalties also shut down some of the Hilltopper drives.
Panther QB Conner Manning, game MVP, and the Panthers utilized a balanced offensive attack. Manning threw for 276 yards and a touchdown on 20 completions. Five Panthers had at least 27 receiving yards, including three who had over 50. Glenn Smith carried the running game with 73 yards on 23 carries, but Demarcus Kirk and Manning also contributed with 59 rushing yards combined.
The Western Kentucky offense attempted to come to life in the fourth quarter, though, with senior quarterback Mike White leading an 87-yard touchdown drive to bring his team back to within 10 points with just over two and a half minutes to play. After a three-and-out stop by the Hilltoppers defense, the offense came back out to the field with a minute and a half to play. Despite the slim chances of making a comeback, White passionately led his offense right back down the field, picking up 55 yards on three plays before throwing the game-ending interception that sealed the deal for Georgia State.
Georgia State head coach Shawn Elliott won the game in his first season as head coach. It is the first bowl win of school history in only the schools fourth year of FBS eligibility.
“There was no doubt in our eyes when we left our locker room, both before the game and at halftime, we were the team that wanted it and we were going win it.” said Elliott “That was in our heart, in our mind, in our spirit we have in our team and we never questioned it. There wasn’t a lull. There wasn’t any down-ness towards our sideline.”
In the end, the BCRF raised $3.3 million towards breast cancer research.