Pearson powers Air Force past Georgia State, 48-38
ATLANTA (AP) A 35-point improvement in points scored had Kale Pearson feeling good about Air Force's growth.
Pearson was personally responsible for many of those points.
Pearson threw two touchdown passes and added two scoring runs to lead Air Force past Georgia State 48-38 on Saturday in the Falcons' first game in a dome in 20 years.
One week after the Falcons' 17-13 loss to Wyoming, Air Force had 539 total yards and scored on five of seven first-half possessions.
Pearson threw touchdown passes of 37 and 22 yards to Garrett Brown. Jacobi Owens ran for 122 yards and two touchdowns for Air Force (2-1).
''I think we're growing as a team,'' Pearson said. ''Those first two games there were opportunities there we didn't capitalize on. Today we took advantage of those opportunities.''
Air Force's offense needed a big game to hold off Georgia State (1-2), which gained 549 yards and tried to rally with two fourth-quarter touchdowns.
''We knew the whole game their offense was powerful,'' Pearson said. ''They're explosive.''
''I was kind of honestly nervous the whole game. It seemed they were making big plays every time I turned around. It's nice to get out of here with a W.''
Pearson completed 12 of 15 passes for 224 yards to add balance to the Falcons' option attack, which began the day ranked sixth in the nation in rushing.
The game was played at the Georgia Dome. The Falcons' last game in a dome was on Sept. 27, 1994, when it beat Texas-El Paso at the Alamodome.
Nick Arbuckle threw for 414 yards, including two touchdown passes to LynQuez Blair, for Georgia State, which is in its first season as a fully certified FBS team and member of the Sun Belt Conference.
''We have a very good football team that just happens to be very, very young,'' said Georgia State coach Trent Miles. ''Young guys have to go through learning experiences and finally break that door down.''
Georgia State freshman running back Krysten Hammon, the team's leading rusher, was suspended for the game for conduct detrimental to the team.
The Panthers cut the Air Force lead to 10 on Duvall Smith's 1-yard touchdown run with 4:57 remaining. Georgia State then failed to recover an onside kick. Pearson completed a fourth-down pass to Brown to help the Falcons run out the clock.
''That fourth quarter being able to run some clock, being able to make some first downs, was something that we really needed,'' said Air Force coach Troy Calhoun.
Pearson posted his second straight game with more than 200 yards passing. He threw for 226 yards in last week's 17-13 loss at Wyoming - the most yards by an Air Force quarterback since Shaun Carney threw for 237 yards against Navy in 2007.
Air Force ended a streak of nine straight road losses against FBS opponents. The Falcons' last road win against a FBS team was against Wyoming in 2012.
Owens' 2-yard touchdown run capped an impressive opening drive for Air Force, which never trailed.
Air Force linebacker Jordan Pierce delivered two key first-half plays which helped the Falcons retain their momentum. Pierce stopped Georgia State fullback Jonathan Lytle on a fourth-and-1 run to end the Panthers' opening possession.
With Air Force leading 14-7 early in the second quarter, Pierce's interception set up the drive which led to Owens' second touchdown run.
Air Force played its first game in the state of Georgia since losing at Georgia Tech in 1977.
Arbuckle threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Blair in the third quarter. The duo combined for a 13-yard touchdown pass in the final quarter.
Kyler Neal, filling in for Hammon, had 80 yards rushing, including a 25-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
The loss of Hammon to the suspension was significant for Georgia State. He ran for 126 yards and two touchdowns in last week's loss to New Mexico State. Georgia State wide receiver Avery Sweeting and safety Bryan Williams also were suspended for the game.
The 86 combined points were the most in Georgia State history.