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Panthers end tough season on a high note with 42-35 win

ATLANTA -- For a team in need of a win as much as Georgia State was, the postgame news conference following the Panthers' 42-35 win over Campbell on Saturday before 11,125 fans at the Georgia Dome seemed a bit subdued.

Whether it was a late-game rally by the visiting Camels (6-5), Campbell receiver Jordan Hildreth being taken from the field on a stretcher with an apparent neck injury or his team's 3-8 finish in the program's second season, Panthers coach Bill Curry was a bit subdued afterwards.

"I have to say to Jordan Hildreth and his family that he is in our prayers," Curry said in his opening remarks, referring to Hildreth, who was injured late in the game, but was able to move as he was being taken to an area hospital for precautionary X-rays. "Those are moments that make you wonder about all of this. I understand from our trainers that he was moving and he was OK. ... When you see one of those moments, ... it's just absolutely chilling."

Still, neither Hildreth's injury, nor Campbell pulling to within a touchdown after GSU had twice taken 21-point leads in the second half could cast a pall on what was perhaps the Panthers' most impressive offensive day of the season.

Quarterback Kelton Hill set a record for the young program by accounting for five touchdowns, one on the ground and four through the air and finished with 354 yards of total offense -- 141 on the ground and 213 coming on 13 of 22 passing.

In addition, Donald Russell added 146 yards on 19 carries, Danny Williams had four receptions for 92 yards and a TD and Jordan Giles added three catches for 71 yards and two scores as GSU rolled up school records with 301 rushing yards and 514 total yards.

"It was a magic offensive performance for us with the exception of the mistakes that still continue to cost us," Curry said. "Defensively, it was another example of a long stretch we played excellent football, and when we had to make a stop coming down to the finish line, we didn't

"So, it's wonderful to have a win, but we all know what could've been this year and didn't get done. So that, to me, is extremely sobering."

Yes, Campbell fought back with three touchdowns in the final 8:45 to turn what had been a comfortable win a little more stressful.

But the Panthers' surge during a third quarter in which they doubled up a 14-7 halftime lead, which could have been more if not for an interception in the end zone and two missed field goals, and gave them enough of a cushion to hold on.

The surge started on the first snap of the third quarter after a 37-yard return of the second-half kickoff by Darren McCray.

Hill showed poise in the pocket under pressure before finding Giles deep down the left side, and the 6-foot-1, 195-pound redshirt sophomore sprinted past the Campbell secondary for a 55-yard touchdown that pushed the Panthers' lead to 21-7 just 20 seconds into the third quarter.

"The end of first half, of course we wanted those three points," Giles said of a missed 34-yard attempt by Christian Benvenuto on the half's last play. "But we were fired up. We wanted to know what we could do and that we could come back."

Campbell looked like it had gotten back into the game by turning a Hill fumble after being sacked into C. J. Oates' second TD of the game to pull to within 21-14 with 9:39 left in the quarter.

But Hill more than made up for the turnover on GSU's next possession.

The 6-0, 183-pound redshirt sophomore followed up a 25-yard keeper by slithering his way through the Campbell defense for an athletic 39-yard touchdown to give the Panthers their two-touchdown lead back at 28-14 with 8:49 left in the period.

"Honestly, I was just trying to pick up the first down," Hill said. "Then I saw open (artificial turf) in front of me. So, I took it and made the defender miss and it was off to the races."

The Panthers appeared to be off to the races after a 3-yard TD pass from Hill to Arthur Williams and Malcolm Smith's 12-yard scoring run made the lead 42-21 with 7:10 to play, but Campbell refused to quit.

Braden Smith threw a 30-yard TD pass to Preston Dodson with 5:31 left, and then ran in from 7 yards out with 1:53 to play to pull the Camels to within 42-35.

But Danny Williams recovered the ensuing onside kick, and the Panthers were able to run out the clock to end what had been a tough season on a high note, and send the prorgam's first full senior class -- including starting center Ben Jacoby -- out as winners.

"Definitely, it does feel pretty good," the Buford grad said. "It means a lot that we were able to get the job done on Senior Day. ... It's definitely satisfying. The season hasn't gone quite the way we wanted, but we to be able to finish on a good note and springboard the rest of the team ... into the next season is something I definitely wanted to get done.