The Georgia State Panthers escaped the friendly confines of home with a win, but they allowed things to get interesting in an all but sealed victory. They lead throughout and were up 21-6 late in the fourth quarter; perhaps they started to celebrate too early. South Alabama scored a 75-yard touchdown, and suddenly there was a ball game with 2:11 remaining. Everybody in the building knew the onside kick was coming the good hand’s people were placed up front but couldn’t grasp the ball. South Alabama recovered it and why not they already had a field goal bounce off the upright and fall through lady luck was on their side.
Now they had hope, all they needed was a touchdown and a two-point conversion to steal the game. The Panthers defense roared at the most critical time and prevented that idea from becoming a reality by imposing their brute strength forcing four quick passes and allowing only seven yards. The Jaguars were forced to go on fourth-n-three the desperation pass failed, and GSU walked away with the prize 21-13.
“It’s a great Thursday night here at Georgia State Stadium. First win in this stadium feels great, but we sure do make it interesting, don’t we? Man, we really do.” Said Head Coach Shawn Elliott. South Alabama came to Atlanta in sneak attack mode firing a bomb down the middle on the games initial snap. The pass was broken up by the defender. The next pass resulted in a huge break for GSU an interception by Bryan Williams in the form of a tip drill right off the intended receiver’s fingertips. They made them pay in the worst way “points off a turnover.” QB Connor Manning hit Glenn Smith for a 2-yard touchdown pass. It was a good strategy to try to catch the Panthers sleeping. Not tonight they were alert and on the hunt.
GSU experienced advantageous field position starting a drive at midfield things seem to be going well until a massive hit by Jeremy Reaves that caused Kyler Neal to fumble giving the Jaguars a short field at the 45-yard line. However, the Panthers defense laid a few hits themselves. At one point they had the Jaguars pinned down near the six-yard line with their backs against the proverbial wall. South Alabama returned the favor pinning GSU down at the five-yard line, but the Conner Manning lead offense put together a back-breaking touchdown drive, 8 plays covering 95 yards in 3:31 with Kyler Neal making amends running in from seven yards out.
Each time the Jaguars sustained any drives the Panthers defense shut them down forcing field goal attempts the first missed wide right but the second was successful from 28 yards away by Gavin Patterson. The first half ended with Georgia State in control of their destiny leading 14-3. Things got dicey in the second half the Jaguars defense was hit with two severe penalties roughing the passer and targeting on a defenseless receiver on the same play. GSU was not intimidated they continued with a good drive taking the ball down into the red zone but shot themselves in the feet with penalties on key plays that forced them to attempt a 50-yard field goal. They came out of this game victorious better not do that often.
At the beginning of the fourth quarter, the offense admired the fireworks display so much they decided to feature their own Penny Hart on a 45-yard pass reception from Manning. Hart capped off the 9 play 79-yard drive with an 8-yard touchdown to make the score 21-6 in favor of Panther Nation. QB Dallas Davis could sense the game getting away as most competitors do he pressed the issue right into an interception by Cedric Stone who returned it 26 yards. Jaguars made an effort to put up more points driving down to the 7-yard line it took 13 plays and a fight for 59 yards. They had their chance, but Jerome Smith said not in our newly decked out house by breaking up the pass in the end zone. They got their wish a bit later with that 75-yard touchdown pass, but they could not come through against the mighty Panthers.
Shawn Elliott on the defense:
“Let me just say our defense played a phenomenal football game, they really did. They had them on their heels all game long. Our secondary, our linebackers, our defensive front, just made plays all night. Hate to see that throw there at the end. And we can’t let that happen.”
Give the defense the game ball they earned the team’s first ever home win.