ATLANTA — Head coach Shawn Elliott and the Georgia State Panthers are back on the winning side of the spectrum after a commanding 46-14 victory over Sun Belt Conference foe ULM Monroe. During the process of winning their first Sun Belt victory of the season, the Panthers set two program records and made a statement while doing so.
There were many points in the game where the Panthers looked as if they were a more potent offense than last year when they won the Cure Bowl Championship (their first bowl game victory in program history). You also saw a Georgia State that lacked discipline at times due to the plethora of true freshmen that have had to fulfill significant roles, thus far.
Without the benefit of film, here is what the positives and the negatives were of Georgia State’s win against the Warhawks:
Positives for the Panthers
The Sun Belt better buckle up because as long as Dan Ellington is the starting quarterback for the Panther, it is going to be a long ride. Through five games, the dual-threat quarterback has eight total touchdowns (four rushing and four passing touchdowns). He simply finds ways to keep plays alive and ultimately reach the end zone. Against the Warhawks, Ellington had 16 carries for 64 yards and a touchdown to go along with 15-of-18 passing, 179 yards and a touchdown pass to tight end Roger Carter that came in the second quarter with 13:00 on the clock.
There’s only one word that describes how the Panthers have been efficient offensively.
“Execution,” Ellington said. “We just played our butt off, and we executed, and we just got the job done today.”
A big reason behind the offense shining in this crucial game was the fact that freshman running back Seth Paige decided today he was going to run for 145 yards and two touchdowns. The Panthers have a hand full of running backs that can carry the load, but Paige had the hot hand early with a blazing 82-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. The touchdown was the longest scoring run from the line of scrimmage in program history. Furthermore, the Panthers accumulated 308 rushing yards, which is also a school record.
But wait, there was another record set today: Penny Hart returned a punt for 49 yards, the first punt returned for a touchdown in school history.
“We talk about doing things for the first time around here, and that’s what’s great about this, we can do things for the very first time and be the change,” Elliott said to reporters following the game.
The Panthers defense, who got burned last week against Western Michigan, played a much more sound, aggressive game against the Warhawks’ offense. It’s worth mentioning that Caleb Evans, ULM’s prolific pocket passer, was the Sun Belt’s passing leader, and the Panthers’ defense held him in check, allowing just 136 passing yards and no passing touchdowns. In fact, the defense forced four turnovers (two interceptions and two fumbles). The interceptions came courtesy of freshman safety Chris Bacon and Victor Heyward. Quavian White and DeAndre Applin forced the fumbles.
Although the Panthers forced four turnovers, they committed four fumbles and failed to recover one. Outside of the turnovers, kicker Brandon Wright, who has vastly improved from last year, missed an extra-point field goal in the third quarter. Fortunately for the Panthers, they held a comfortable 36-14 lead at the time.
The secondary also had a couple of mental mistakes. There were two crucial pass interference calls against the Panthers that put ULM in scoring position. As you can imagine, that is how the Warhawks scored their 14 points of the game. Evans didn’t throw any touchdowns, but due to the penalties committed by the Panthers, it allowed him to scramble for a 10-yard touchdown in the second quarter and a 15-yard ankle-braking touchdown in the third quarter.
Another negative falls on the students who failed to make their way to Georgia State Stadium and support their Panthers. Coach Elliott made it his point to encourage those that were absent to today’s game to support the team during the remaining home games.
“I wanna thank the fans that were here today, I really do,” Elliott said. “This is place is gonna grow, and I just want them to know how important it is that we realize they’re up there in the stands — the ones that do show up, the ones that do scream, the ones that really take pride in their university and takes pride in this football team. I really wanna thank them for coming out.”
The next opportunity for Panther fans and students to show their support at Georgia Stadium is Oct. 27 against Coastal Carolina.
By D’Mitri Chin