Atlanta, GA (SportsNetwork.com) - Keshawn Simpson became just the second Hilltopper to tally four rushing touchdowns in a single game since they joined the FBS as Western Kentucky held off the Georgia State Panthers for a 44-28 decision in a Sun Belt Conference tilt at the Georgia Dome.
Simpson finished with 25 yards on 10 carries for Western Kentucky (5-4, 2-3 SBC) as he served as a goal line specialist to match his career total of rushing touchdowns. Antonio Andrews gained a team-high total of 110 yards on 22 attempts and Leon Allen rushed nine times for 61 yards. Brandon Doughty completed 15-of-24 pass attempts for 206 yards with one touchdown and an interception. Doughty left the contest in the fourth quarter with an injury and did not return.
The win concluded the Hilltoppers' two-game losing slide and brought them to within a game of bowl eligibility. The event marked coach Bobby Petrino's first visit to the Georgia Dome since he resigned after 13 games as the Atlanta Falcons' head coach six years ago.
Georgia State (0-9, 0-4) was led by Ronnie Bell, who hit on 26-of-41 of his pass attempts for 325 yards with two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. Albert Wilson reeled in seven receptions for 72 yards while Robert Davis made four catches for 84 yards and a score. Avery Sweeting also got into the mix with a career-best 71 yards and a touchdown on five grabs. Jonathan Jean-Bart paced the Panthers on the ground with 53 yards and one rushing touchdown.
After receiving the opening kickoff, the Hilltoppers produced a 12-play, 40- yard drive that resulted in a two-yard touchdown run by Simpson. WKU extended its lead to 10-0 with just over two minutes left in the opening quarter when Garrett Schwettman connected on a 40-yard field goal attempt.
Georgia State responded on its next drive as Bell completed a 67-yard touchdown pass to Davis. Wil Lutz's successful extra point try narrowed the deficit to 10-7 with 1:33 left in the first frame.
The Hilltoppers pulled away with a pair of touchdowns late in the second stanza. Simpson scored his second touchdown of the contest with just over four minutes left before the intermission on a one-yard run. The Panthers were limited to only seven yards on their next drive before Doughty led WKU on a six-play, 75-yard drive that he concluded with a 16-yard touchdown pass to Kadeem Jones. Schwettman converted the ensuing extra point attempt to send the Hilltoppers into halftime with a 24-7 advantage.
WKU continued its run after the intermission as Simpson scored on a two-yard run near the midpoint of the third quarter.
Georgia State finally responded as it moved the ball 71 yards down the field on 10 plays to set up Travis Evans for a two-yard touchdown rush. The Panthers added another score late in the third quarter as Jean-Bart rushed 11 yards across the goal line to narrow the deficit to 31-21.
WKU stopped the rally as it ran nearly six minutes off the clock before Simpson notched his fourth touchdown of the contest on a three-yard run. The Hilltoppers added more insurance points with just less than four minutes left in regulation as Nelson Fishback completed a five-yard touchdown pass to Tim Gorski. Schwettman missed the ensuing extra point attempt, which left the visitors with a 44-21 lead.
The Panthers ended the scoring as Ronnie Bell completed Avery Sweeting a 19- yard touchdown pass at the 1:21 point of the fourth frame. They managed to recover an on-side kick after the touchdown pass, but WKU's defense stopped them at the 50-yard line to clinch the decision.