Georgia State used a dominant second half to gain a 51-20 victory over Ball State in the TaxAct Camellia Bowl on Christmas Day. The Panthers were led by quarterback Darren Grainger with 325 total yards and four touchdowns. The performance earned him the Bart Starr MVP award. The game was close going into halftime with Georgia State up 20-13, but the game turned in the third quarter. The win gives the Panthers a 8-5 record on the season, and Ball State ends at 6-7.
Georgia State wins 2021 TaxAct Camellia Bowl
The game got off to a slow start with both teams trading punts in their opening possessions. On the second possession for Ball State, they did not even let it get to a third down. On a second and five play with 8:59 remaining in the first, Drew Plitt connected with Jayshon Jackson for a 56-yard touchdown. That scoring play gave the Cardinals their only lead of the game at 7-0. Following the score, the Panthers used a 10-play, 75-yard drive with two 19-yard completions from Grainger to Aubry Payne and Cornelius McCoy to get into Ball State territory. A few plays later once they got into the red zone, Grainger connected with Payne once again for an 18-yard touchdown to tie the game at seven with 4:55 left in the quarter.
Ball State quickly gave the ball back on their next possession when Plitt put the ball on the ground after stumbling. The ball was picked up by Denis Javon and returned for 37 yards to give the Panthers the lead 14-7 with 2:02 still in the first. That was the last time either team would reach the end zone in the first half. The field goal kickers would get involved in the scoring in the second quarter. Georgia State’s Noel Ruiz and Ball State’s Jacob Lewis both connected on two kicks. The second Panther field goal was set up by a spectacular run by Grainger of 48 yards to get them down to the Cardinals 11 before the drive stalled out. The Panthers led 20-13 going in at halftime.
The third quarter is where the game turned for Georgia State. The Panthers would outscore the Cardinals 28-0 with scoring from both the offense and defense and did not waste time to open the half. Georgia State went on an 8-play, 75-yard drive that resulted in a 10-yard touchdown from Grainger to Robert Lewis. Jamyest Williams had the play of the drive with a 17-yard run to set them up inside the ten. After Ball State went three and out, the Panthers had another impressive drive. Grainger capped it off with a 34-yard touchdown run with 7:08 in the third to put them up 34-13.
With the help of two personal foul penalties, Ball State was able to move the ball into Panther territory. They failed on a Lewis 46-yard field goal attempt with 3:10 in the third. This set the Panthers up with great field position. Grainger connected with Payne three times that included a 40-yard play and a 16-yarder for the touchdown. That score put the Panthers up 41-13 with 1:33 left in the third, but the scoring was not done. Five plays later Plitt was intercepted by Antavious Lane, and returned it for a 55-yard score.
The game was all but over heading into the fourth, but the Cardinals were able to put up some more points before it went final. After a 45-yard field goal by Ruiz for Georgia State, Ball State found the end zone. The Cardinals scored on a 15-play, 75-yard drive that was capped off by one-yard touchdown run by Plitt. That would end the scoring at 51-20.
2021 TaxAct Camellia Bowl Standouts
Grainger was not the only strong performance at the Cramton Bowl in Montgomery. Tight-end Aubry Payne had a big game with eight receptions for 109 yards and two touchdowns. On defense they were led by safety Antavious Lane with ten total tackles and the pick-six touchdown in the third.
Despite the loss, Ball State quarterback Drew Plitt put up solid numbers. The senior went 27 for 46 for 293 yards and two total touchdowns. Junior receiver Jayshon Jackson caught 12 passes for 146 yards and one touchdown in the absence of Justin Hall.