The Panthers lacked ‘fight’ in crushing loss to Western Michigan
ATLANTA — Georgia State suffered a brutal 34-15 loss to the Western Michigan Mustangs at Georgia State Stadium. The Panthers are now on a miserable three-game losing streak with their first conference game at home next week against ULM who is also trying to snap their current losing streak of two games.
Head coach Shawn Elliott was displeased with his team’s effort and ultimately said his guys must show heart when facing adversity.
“I’m very disappointed in the fact that in my entire career, I’ve never thought you’d come to a day where you see the fight really taken out of our football team,” Elliott said. “It’s one of the things we talk about a lot is having tremendous fight. You know, there wasn’t a whole lot of fight out there — if there was it was the other team because our fight wasn’t there.”
The Panthers had a legitimate opportunity to stun the Mustangs and secure an upset win but were unable to take advantage of significant opportunities throughout the game. Here were the contributing factors that led to the Panthers (1-3) losing their first game at home this season:
The game is won and lost in the trenches
The Panthers’ offensive line has struggled this year in run blocking. While quarterback Dan Ellington scored two touchdowns (10-yard run and three-yard run) on the ground, the hog mollies up front have not been able to generate open lanes for the running backs, and the quarterback in most cases. Being that the Panthers run a run-pass-option style offense, the offensive line must be aggressive and punch opposing defenses in the mouth. Not to mention, Ellington is an elusive quarterback, and the Mustangs still managed to sack him three times. The Panthers came into this matchup with injuries on both sides of the ball. A lack of depth and experience on the front line is a major concern for Georgia State.
“A lot of miscommunication upfront from the offensive line standpoint led to a lot of pressures, a lot of sacks, a lot of fumbles,” Elliot said. “We started two new guys on the offensive line — two freshmen right there at right guard and right tackle.” Perhaps the most crucial fumble of the game occurred on the 21-yard line of the Mustangs when Ellington was sacked from his blind side. The Panthers had an opportunity to score the game’s first points, but the fumble recovery allowed Western Michigan to gain early momentum and score an early field goal.
No pressure, no problems for the Mustangs
Not only was the offensive line nonintimidating, but the defensive line didn’t generate any pass rush and allowed quarterback Jon Wassink to go through his progressions with ease. Furthermore, the defense gave up a total of 294 yards on the ground. Elliott said his defense failed “to get a hat on the ball” in open space, allowing Western Michigan’s running backs to run forty-yard dashes on several carries.
The injury bug has the Panthers licking their wounds
Injuries are unpredictable and can derail a team’s success. In this case, the Panthers are dealing with significant casualties on both sides of the ball, but the defensive secondary has suffered from not having key contributors such as Jerome Smith, DeAndre Applin, and Cedric Stone. Smith is the Panthers best pass-coverage defender, while Applin is a dynamic, strong safety who communicates well and helps get the orchestrate the defense. With these vital pieces missing for the Panthers, Wassink completed 20 of 25 passes for 234 yards and three touchdowns. Jayden Reed was able to torch the freshman in the secondary. Reed had seven catches for 101 yards and a touchdown.
The Panthers are in undesirable spit heading into conference, but Ellington says that the team “is going to be fine, I promise we’re going to be fine.” If ever a time to get back on the winning side of things, it is now for Elliott’s ball club who is looking to win the Sun Belt Conference Championship this year.
The Panthers host ULM next Saturday at 2:00 p.m. at Georgia State Stadium.