Georgia State, Wyoming bring strong ground games to Arizona Bowl

NCAA Football
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Georgia State and Wyoming will meet for the first time when they clash in the fifth Arizona Bowl in Tucson on Dec. 31.

After posting a 2-10 record in 2018, the Panthers of the Sun Belt Conference are 7-5 this season. A season-opening 38-30 win at Tennessee on Aug. 31 was the highlight, and the Panthers also got a nonconference win over Army, 28-21.

Georgia State, making the third bowl appearance in the school’s seven years as an FBS program, finished with a 4-4 mark in conference play. The Panthers are 1-1 in two previous appearances in the Cure Bowl.

Quarterback Dan Ellington has 2,291 passing yards and 598 rushing yards this season. He has thrown 21 touchdown passes to seven interceptions, playing in the past three games on a torn ACL, suffered Nov. 9 against Louisiana-Monroe.

Senior Tra Barnett’s 1,389 rushing yards are second in the conference, and his average of 115.8 per game tops the Sun Belt. Barnett averages 6.0 yards per carry, and his 12 rushing touchdowns are third-most in the league.

The Panthers can reach eight wins in a season for the first time in program history, which dates to 2010 when it started out as an FCS independent.

“For Georgia State to be in our 10th year and playing in our third bowl game is just amazing,” coach Shawn Elliott said. “It’s a testament to all the great people associated with this university, our administration, our students and fans, our athletic department and especially our players.”

Wyoming (7-5) of the Mountain West is in its third bowl game under sixth-year coach Craig Bohl. The Cowboys look to even their overall bowl record at 8-8 with a win.

Wyoming went 3-1 in nonconference play, including a season-opening win over Missouri of the SEC. The Cowboys’ defense is holding opponents to 17.8 points per game — 11th in the nation — and 99.4 rushing yards per game, the sixth-best mark in the country.

Sophomore Xazavian Valladay leads Wyoming in rushing with 1,061 yards.

Wyoming and Georgia State combine to average 454.7 rushing yards per game.

Wyoming went through November without starting quarterback Sean Chambers because of a season-ending knee injury. The redshirt freshman rushed for 567 rushing yards and passed for 915 yards this season. The Cowboys were 1-3 without him down the stretch.

The Cowboys could go with Tyler Vander Waal or freshman Levi Williams — or both — in the Arizona Bowl. Vander Waal, a starter last season, has put his name into the NCAA transfer portal but continues to work with the team.

Vander Waal started the four games in Chambers’ absence and has completed 49 of 95 passes for 512 yards, with one touchdown and four interceptions this season. Williams played in the final two games of the season, getting most of the work in the second half of a 20-6 loss at Air Force to end the regular season.

“Both guys have been working with the first unit,” Bohl said. “We’re going to need both of them.”

–Field Level Media

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