TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Georgia State took a start-from-scratch mentality into the second half.
Down 38-0 at halftime, the Panthers held their own the rest of the way in a 45-3 loss to No. 1 Alabama on Saturday.
The first-year Football Bowl Subdivision team also didn't let the Tide (5-0) pitch a second straight shutout, thanks to kicker Wil Lutz. Lutz booted a school-record 53-yarder to cap the opening drive after halftime for the Panthers (0-5).
"We went in at halftime and we discussed the first half and going out in the second half with the mindset of a 0-0 score and it was a 7-3 ballgame in the second half," Panthers coach Trent Miles said. "My kids can build on that now that we are going into our conference play. It's real ball for us now and we're ready to go.
"We had no major injuries. Anytime you are a coach and you are playing the No. 1 team in the nation in your first year in the FBS, one of the thoughts you have in your mind is that you don't want to lose anybody."
AJ McCarron completed 15 of 16 passes for 166 yards and four touchdowns in the first half for Alabama, which has only allowed three field goals in the past three games.
"That's what we were looking for," Tide wide receiver DeAndrew White said. "We try to play a perfect game. Special teams, offense, defense coming together, that's what we want."
McCarron led Alabama to touchdowns on each of his five possessions before leaving and set the school record for completion percentage in a game with a minimum of 15 passes. He completed his first 12 passes, putting him in a three-way tie for the Tide's third-longest streak.
The four touchdown passes matched his career high and was the seventh time McCarron has reached that number. Alabama outgained the Panthers 477-175 and held them to 15 yards on 22 rushes.
Georgia State ended Alabama's bid for a second straight shutout with Lutz's long kick to cap the second half's opening drive. Ronnie Bell's 34-yard pass to Albert Wilson put the Panthers across midfield for the first time and helped set up the score.
Bell completed 11 of 20 passes for 146 yards. Albert Wilson gained 60 yards on four catches. Miles said the Panthers made mistakes they couldn't afford early against Alabama, but that Lutz's kick was important.
"I was thrilled for him and Georgia State," he said. "When ESPN is flashing the ticker all day at the bottom, the very first score you're going to see is Georgia State and Alabama. Rather than having a goose egg, we had three points.
"We wished we would have had 46 points. If they scored 45 we wish we would have 46. At that moment I was glad to get that three on there."
Collins started in place of Tide safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who was suspended indefinitely for violating team rules. He reportedly accepted a short-term loan from an assistant, but the star's absence wasn't a problem in the mismatch. Clinton-Dix's status remains uncertain for next week's game at Kentucky.
Backup quarterback Blake Sims wasn't far behind McCarron's accuracy. He completed 14 of 18 passes for 130 yards and his second career touchdown, a 10-yard pass to Chris Black that was the game's final score with 6:18 left in the third quarter.
Alabama scored three touchdowns in the first quarter, capping it with White's one-handed grab for an 11-yard scoring catch one play after the Tide recovered a fumbled punt return.
Backup tailback Kenyan Drake added a 23-yard catch on a swing pass early in the second quarter. He bounced off a defender near the line of scrimmage and dove into the end zone.
Alabama's defense made things tough for Bell & Co.
"They got to the ball very fast, which got us to play faster," he said. "So when we get into competition with the Sun Belt, then we'll play faster."