FILE - In this Sept. 12, 2015, file photo, Georgia State quarterback Nick Arbuckle throws during the first half of an NCAA college football game against New Mexico State in Las Cruces, N.M. Arbuckle surely had family and friends who wondered if he was thi
Andres Leighton, File
December 15, 2015

ATLANTA (AP) Georgia State quarterback Nick Arbuckle has just the matchup he wants in the inaugural Cure Bowl.

Even though Arbuckle was an undersized tight end and a backup QB at St. Bonaventure (California) High, he felt the sting of getting passed over by San Jose State.

The Panthers (6-6) face San Jose State (5-7) on Saturday in Orlando, Fla.

''I do remember when San Jose State came multiple times to recruit some of the guys on the team and I was one of the guys they didn't look at,'' Arbuckle said Tuesday. ''So it feels kind of good to have an opportunity to go against them now.''

He didn't get a chance to start at quarterback until enrolling at Pierce Junior College in Los Angeles, passing for 73 touchdowns and nearly 7,000 yards and earning a full scholarship to Georgia State.

Arbuckle has averaged 310 yards passing per game, third-best among active FBS quarterbacks, since the start of last season. He's 95 yards shy of setting the Sun Belt Conference single-season record.

Georgia State coach Trent Miles says Arbuckle, the team's senior leader, will be the hardest player to replace despite having 17 starters returning next year. That time is coming, but right now the team is enjoying a four-game winning streak that led to an improbable bowl game.

The Panthers went 1-23 in Miles' first two years, and Arbuckle is a big reason for their turnaround this season. He was Miles' point man to keep the team on task.

''It all starts with the quarterback,'' Miles said. ''We started winning games when we got the quarterback in and everybody started developing. It always starts with the quarterback. That's high school, college and pro.''

Arbuckle, recently named Sun Belt player of the year, passed for 4,000-plus yards and 26 TDs this year. His primary targets are Penny Hart, the league's freshman of the year, junior Robert Davis and senior Donovan Harden.

A surprisingly easy 34-7 victory at Georgia Southern two weeks ago clinched the necessary sixth victory to become eligible for a bowl, but Arbuckle says that's just part of the Panthers' goal.

''As a senior class, that's the kind of legacy we wanted to leave,'' he said. ''We weren't talking just about making a bowl game. We were talking about winning a bowl game and getting a winning season. Those are two goals we have on the table.''

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AP college football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org

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