The football gods lifted an unknowingly curse on the Panthers Thursday as Georgia State won their first season-opening game since 2014. Led by Dan Ellington, the junior transfer quarterback from Itawamba Community College, the Panthers executed a two-minute drill that ended with Ellington lofting an eight-yard touchdown pass to wideout Diondre Champaigne with 40 seconds remaining on the clock to defeat the Kennesaw State Owls 24-20. The win is Ellington’s first in a Georgia State uniform and the team’s first season-opening victory since 2014.
“I can’t say enough about the way our football team finished,” head coach Shawn Elliott said. “To have an opportunity to go down there and take the lead and win that football game with that last second pass is really a testament of how they fought and how they never gave up.”
The Panthers were on the brink of losing a game that presumably would have tainted their reputation of becoming a competitive football program. Nonetheless, they found a way to generate stops when needed and ultimately thrived off the energy of the electric 23,088 fans in attendance at Georgia State Stadium.
From observing the game without the benefit of film, here is was allowed Georgia State to outlast the Owls:
Dan, the man
As mentioned, Ellington simply willed his team to victory. He made plays both on the ground and through the air. He finished the game 20 of 28 for 187 yards and three touchdowns, as well as 18 carries and a game-high 103 yards rushing. Aside from the spectacular throw, he made to Champaigne in the back of the end zone, Ellington connected with Penny Hart on a three-yard dump off in the second quarter to give his team their first touchdown of the day. He followed up with a six-yard touchdown pass to Christian Owens that tied the game at 14 apiece at halftime.
Panther fans have never seen a quarterback with the dynamics Ellington possess. He’s a true dual-threat that takes care of the ball. Although this was the first game, he showed he had heart and made a promise to the fans after the game.
“To the Georgia State fans, just know that I’m never gonna give up, I’m never gonna stop playing. I’m gonna fight until the end,” Ellington said to the media following the game.
Offense wins games; defense wins championships?
Although the offense made plays during the last drive to win the game, the defense forced a crucial fumble with two minutes on the clock that allowed the Panthers to have their last chance to be triumphant. It’s also worth mentioning that with 50 seconds remaining in the second quarter, safety DeAndre Applin intercepted Chandler Burks’ pass that eventually led to Georgia State scoring a touchdown to tie the game before the half. Those two big plays by the defense are what helped generate a moment shift in favor of the Panthers.
A leg up on the opponent
Brandon Wright was known last year for having a strong leg but failing to have the accuracy needed at the D1-level. Well, Wright changed the narrative Thursday by showcasing how much he’s progressed since last year. Against the Owls, Wright nailed three extra-point conversions, a 35-yard field goal and, he also had three punts that put the Owls inside their own 20-yard line. Wright had a solid outing and undoubtedly helped the Panthers secure the victory