- Associated Press - Friday, August 21, 2015

ATLANTA (AP) - When Trent Miles was asked what Georgia State needed to take the next step in its football development, he had a simple answer.

“To win,” the coach replied.

Actually, a win would be a good start.

Heading into their third season as a full FBS member, the Panthers have yet to be defeat another school from the NCAA’s top division.

In Miles first year as coach, they went 0-12. Last season, Georgia State rallied for an opening win over FCS opponent Abilene Christine before losing its final 11 games.

Going back to 2012, when the Panthers started making the transition from FCS to FBS, they are a dismal 2-33, raising questions about the wisdom of a school with little athletic tradition jumping so quickly to the NCAA’s top level. Georgia State launched its program only five years ago.

But Miles expects a dramatic turnaround this season from his Sun Belt Conference team. He said the record over last two years was not unexpected given the daunting task he was handed when taking over the program from Bill Curry.

“It’s you’ve ever built a home, you’re excited to see that home,” Miles said. “But you go by for weeks and all you see is a hole in the ground. You don’t see what’s going on underneath, pouring that foundation.

“We’ve poured the foundation. Now the frame is up. Our student-athletes will be much improved. I think you will see the rewards of our building process. We had to take the time to teach these kids to compete at this level. You don’t just jump in when you’ve not had a football program and start winning and competing.”

Senior quarterback Nick Arbuckle said he noticed a lot more players staying after practice during preseason camp, looking to get in extra work.

“We all know what kind of things are going to happen this year,” he said, “and we all want to take part in it.”


Some things to watch for with the Panthers this season:

ARBUCKLE’S ARM: The junior-college transfer looked like a one-man team at times during his first season as the starter. He passed for 3,283 yards and 23 touchdowns but was plagued by 17 interceptions. Miles is looking for fewer mistakes from his quarterback, and he hopes improvement on the offensive line and in the running game will take some of the heat off Arbuckle. “When you’re struggling a little bit, you try to be Superman,” the coach said. “You make some throws you don’t need to make and force the football. He doesn’t have to do that now.”

LEAKY DEFENSE: The Panthers won’t make big jump without significant improvement on defense. Last season, they ranked last in FBS by giving up an average of 43.3 points per game. The most embarrassing performance came against state rival Georgia Southern, which was playing its first season in FBS but is a much more established program. The Eagles ran for 613 yards in a 69-31 blowout on the Panthers’ home field.

CLOSE LOSSES: Georgia State must find a way to make crucial plays at the end of the game. The Panthers squandered an early 17-0 lead against New Mexico State, giving up the winning touchdown with 15 seconds remaining. They also surrendered late leads against Louisiana-Lafayette and South Alabama.


This version corrects that Georgia State ranked last in the FBS in points allowed last season, not FCS.


Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963

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