ATLANTA -- Quarterback Ronnie Bell threw for 391 yards and three touchdowns as Georgia State football dropped its inaugural game in the Football Bowl Subdivision 31-21 to Samford on Saturday night in the Georgia Dome.
Senior receiver Kelton Hill caught a pair of first-half touchdown passes from Bell as the Panthers built a 14-7 lead going into halftime. Hill's touchdowns made him the first in GSU history to have a career TD by passing, rushing and receiving.
The Bulldogs then scored 24 unanswered points in the second half to mount a comeback victory. Samford scored three touchdowns in the span of eight minutes to open a lead late in the ballgame.
Senior Albert Wilson caught eight passes for 167 yards, including a 40-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter. That effort is the second-most receiving yards in a single game for a Panther receiver, behind Wilson's own 175-yard outing against South Alabama in 2011.
Not only was the game the Panthers' first in the FBS, but it was also the opening game under the direction of head coach Trent Miles.
"It was a tough start, but I am very proud of our young men." said Miles. "They competed and we've got to teach them how to win. They responded well and didn't hang their heads. When something went wrong they kept fighting back."
Samford running back Fabian Truss rushed for 78 yards and a fourth-quarter touchdown. Truss also returned the game's opening kickoff 100 yards for the first score of the contest.
That marks the first time the Panthers have allowed a kickoff return for a touchdown in program history.
Bell completed 28 of 51 passes, but also had two costly interceptions. One of those was returned for a touchdown by Samford cornerback Jaquiski Tartt, proving to be the turning point of the game and momentum shift.
Tied 14-14 heading into the fourth quarter, Samford then went on a 10-play, 62-yard drive to take the lead for good with 11:21 to play at 21-14.
GSU outgained Samford in total yards, 463-298 and ran 76 plays to 67 by Samford.
The Panthers face another SoCon opponent in Chattanooga in the Georgia Dome next Saturday, Sept. 7th. Kickoff is set for 2:00 p.m.
Georgia State University