JONESBORO — Seven touchdown passes weren't enough. Arkansas State needed one more to beat Georgia State.
To get it, the Red Wolves dialed up a play they installed a couple of weeks ago.
With the score tied and less than five minutes remaining in Thursday's game, freshman running back Lincoln Pare took a handoff from quarterback Layne Hatcher, then flipped the ball to wide receiver Roshauud Paul on a reverse. Pare continued on his way out of the backfield and down the sideline as Paul turned to throw the football.
Keeping his nerves in check, Pare caught Paul's reverse pass in stride and sprinted to the end zone to complete a 22-yard touchdown reception that gave ASU a 59-52 victory.
"The biggest thing is just staying calm because you know it's a trick play and you know it's probably going to be open because on the last play, nobody is really accountable for me on defense on that play," Pare said of his second touchdown reception on the night. "The biggest thing is just staying calm, look the ball in and score the touchdown, of course. It just felt really good to help my team win."
With 4:23 remaining on the Centennial Bank Stadium clock, Georgia State had ample time to answer on a night when the two teams drove the field almost at will.
But on their final possession, the Panthers turned the ball over on downs at the ASU 41 with just over two minutes remaining as ASU cornerback Samy Johnson broke up two deep passes intended for 6-4 Sam Pinckney, the last on fourth down. The Red Wolves converted on third down with a 5-yard pass to Brandon Bowling and ran out the clock to end an ESPN-televised game that lasted four hours, 12 minutes.
ASU (3-2, 1-1 Sun Belt) set single-game school records for passing yards (551) and passing touchdowns (eight), and it was barely enough.
"Well if you like offense that was probably a really fun one to watch, but as a head coach it was agonizing. That's unbelievable," said ASU head coach Blake Anderson, whose team had 609 total yards on 96 plays. "We found a way to win it. We did not play well on defense at any point, but we had to get a stop and we got one, so you have to give them credit for, man, just continuing to fight."
Georgia State (1-2, 0-2 Sun Belt) gave the Red Wolves fits again after rolling up 700-plus yards in last year's meeting in Atlanta. The Panthers averaged 7.7 yards per play on their way to 583 yards.
Neither team ever led by more than a touchdown in a game that was tied seven times, the last time at 52.
"You knew early that both offenses were clicking and it was going to take a miracle to get one of them stopped," Anderson said. "We've been in those before down at Monroe, I've been in them as a coordinator before, but that one, it was never more than a one-score game. It just wasn't going away."
Hatcher and Logan Bonner, ASU's alternating quarterbacks, combined to complete 39-of-56 passes for 529 yards and seven touchdowns. Hatcher was 21-of-28 for 332 yards and four scores, while Bonner finished with 197 yards and three touchdowns on 18-of-28 accuracy.
Jonathan Adams Jr. tied ASU's single-game record with 15 receptions, joining current Washington Redskins running back J.D. McKissic in the school record book. Adams had 177 yards receiving and two touchdowns.
Dahu Green also ran through Georgia State's pass coverage at will, catching nine passes for 172 yards and two touchdowns. Bowling snagged six passes for 91 yards and a touchdown.
ASU struggled to run the football, finishing with 58 yards on 39 carries, and had trouble at times in pass protection.
"Mostly they were trying to bring pressure and just trying to hit us as much as possible. And they were hitting us a lot, but we were doing a good job of getting the ball off and the line was giving us just enough time to get the ball off, and our receivers were making plays on the outside," Hatcher said. "Jay and Dahu and Brandon were making some really great plays. It's going to be one-on-one situations when they're trying to bring that much pressure and you have to win on the outside, and they did a great job of that."
The Panthers forced the Red Wolves to keep scoring.
Cornelious Brown IV was 18-of-35 passing for 314 yards and three touchdowns, all to Pinckney, who had six receptions for 146 yards. Brown, Georgia State's 6-5 redshirt freshman quarterback, also ran for two scores and 83 yards. Running back Tucker Gregg led the Panthers with 142 yards on 14 carries, scoring once.
ASU safety Elery Alexander said the Red Wolves had to adjust early in the game as the Panthers ran the option out of different formations than they had previously.
"It is a good win, I'll never take away from a good win, but it's not satisfying giving up 50-something points with a defense," Alexander said.
Georgia State answered each time ASU scored as the teams played to a 28-28 tie at halftime. The Red Wolves missed an opportunity to take a two-score lead early in the second quarter when the Panthers stripped the ball from Hatcher on a sack and linebacker Blake Carroll returned the fumble 74 yards to tie the game at 14.
After falling behind 35-28 early in the third quarter, the Red Wolves came back to lead 42-35 on touchdown passes to Bowling and Pare. Gregg's 7-yard touchdown run pulled the Panthers back into a tie before Blake Grupe's 39-yard field goal gave ASU a 45-42 lead going to the fourth quarter.
Pinckney's 31-yard touchdown catch gave the Panthers the lead again. ASU regained the lead on Hatcher's 32-yard touchdown pass to Adams with 12:40 to play.
Georgia State stalled inside the ASU 20 after driving 60 yards, settling for Noel Ruiz's 29-yard field goal and a 52-52 tie with 6:55 remaining. Hatcher's 42-yard strike to Bowling put the Red Wolves in position for Paul's touchdown pass to Pare.
The Red Wolves visit Appalachian State next Thursday in another game that will be televised by ESPN.
"I'm proud of them, excited, frustrated, all of the above. You've got every emotion going through at one time," Anderson said. "We've got to play better, but wins are hard to come by in this league. Everybody is good enough to beat you. I'm excited we found a way to get it done."