San Jose State claimed the inaugural AutoNation Cure Bowl in a 27-16 decision over Georgia State Saturday night at a mostly-empty Citrus Bowl Stadium in Orlando.
The Spartans (6-7), who came in at 5-7 and earned their right to play in the postseason thanks to an impressive APR score, led nearly the entire way. After a scoreless opening frame, San Jose State got on the board on a 19-yard Austin Lopez chip shot with 11:05 to play in the first half. After forcing a three-and-out, star running back Tyler Ervin took the ensuing punt 85 yards for a touchdown to push the lead to 10-0.
Georgia State (6-7) immediately responded with a five-play, 87-yard touchdown march punctuated by a 38-yard scoring strike from Nick Arbuckle to Donovan Harden.
Another Lopez field goal nudged the Spartans’ lead to 13-7 in the third quarter, but Georgia State briefly grabbed the lead thanks to a safety at the 12:44 mark of the fourth quarter and, after a 24-yard kickoff return following the safety, a four-play, 36-yard touchdown march, ended on a 19-yard pass from Arbuckle to Todd Boyd, giving the Panthers a 16-13 edge with 10:46 to play.
San Jose State immediately struck back with a three-play touchdown drive of their own, capped by a 42-yard keeper by quarterback Kenny Potter.
A 29-yard kickoff return gave Georgia State the ball at the 40, but 1st-and-10 at the 40 quickly became 4th-and-1 at the 49. After taking a timeout to think it over, head coach Trent Miles elected to throw it deep, and Arbuckle overshot an open Penny Hart streaking toward the end zone.
San Jose State methodically strolled 49 yards in 11 plays and more than five minutes, with the capper coming on a one-yard toss from Potter to tight end Josh Oliver with 2:40 to play.
Potter completed 10-of-19 throws for 89 yards with a touchdown and an interception, while Ervin carried the day with 30 rushes for 132 yards in addition to his punt return score. Ervin’s 132 yards were enough to put him at 1,601 on the season, breaking San Jose State’s single-season rushing record.
The game proved to be a perfect swan song for San Jose State’s outgoing defensive coordinator Greg Robinson, who announced Friday that today’s game would be the last in a 41-year coaching career. His defense held Arbuckle, the nation’s sixth-leading passer at nearly 347 yards per game, to just 208 yards on 14-of-29 passing with two scores and one end-of-game interception. San Jose State also held six Panthers rushers to 23 yards on 20 carries.
The win gives Ron Caragher his first bowl victory in three seasons as San Jose State’s head coach and just the seventh in program history.
Georgia State was denied its first bowl win in program history — unlike Sun Belt bunkmate Appalachian State — but 2015 will still be viewed as a success for a program that came into the fall looking for its first FBS win of any kind.