The Georgia State Panthers outlasted the Army Black Knights on Saturday night in a 28-21 victory. Senior Quarterback Dan Ellington had a steady game in going 20-28 for 232 yards and 3 TDs.
This was the first meeting between Army and Georgia State, but the Black Knight’s Head Coach Jeff Moniker is familiar with the Panthers. Moniker was the Head Coach at Georgia Southern, the in-state rival of GSU when the Panthers fielded their first football team in 2010.
The Panthers entered the game riding the momentum of two record-breaking rushing days in their past two games, but it was their aerial attack that would carry them on Saturday Night.
After an opening drive that stalled at midfield, Ellington and the Georgia State offense got off to the best start of the year through the air. The Panthers signal-caller finished the first quarter 8/10 for 116 yards and a TD. He was also diplomatic in his delivery with those completions going to six different receivers.
The Army opening drive ended with a fake punt resulting in an incomplete pass and a turnover on downs. After Georgia State came down to make it 7-0, the Black Knights would have a methodical 9 play, 75-yard scoring drive culminating in Junior Running Back Sandon McCoy diving over his offensive line and flipping into the end zone to make it 7-7.
The conditions took a toll on the Black Knights and resulted in 2 fumbles. Their triple-option offense calls for precise timing and control of the football with the quarterback constantly holding it and pulling it from the chests of his backs. The exchanges suffered due to the rain, and so did the Army offense.
A crucial drive after a Georgia State scoring bid was halted by a costly goal-line fumble. Georgia State would take over and continue their aerial dominance with a drive that would eventually see them go up 14-7.
The Panthers exploited the large size difference between Redshirt Freshman Wideout Sam Pinckney and the Black Knight’s Defensive Backs. Pinckney is a whopping 6’4”, 210 pounds, and caused problems on the outside all day. He would finish with 2 catches, both of which were scores.
Again, the Black Knights would answer. Army’s triple-option nickel and dimed the Georgia State defense all day. They took the air out of the ball with long drives that wore down the Panther’s front line.
The Black Knights shared the load in the backfield between 4 running backs, but in the red zone they turned to McCoy who, after his score in the first, followed it up at the end of the 2nd quarter by breaking 3 tackles on his way to his second touchdown of the evening. He looked like a man amongst boys and paced Army all evening.
After going into the half even at 14-14, the Black Knights would strike first in the second half with a drive that ate up half of the 3rd quarter. A fourth-down conversion at the beginning of the drive then led to Senior Running Back Connor Slomka gashing the Panthers for 32 yards just a few plays later.
Slomka would end the game as the leading rusher for the Black Knights with ten attempts for 89 yards. Army would go on to score on a reverse and make it 21-14 with 8:17 to go in the third.
The Panthers would answer behind a balanced 16 play, 75-yard drive that lasted 6:09. Senior Running Back Tra Barnett would punch the ball in from the 1-yard line to score. The touchdown was his 13th as a Panther, and he now holds the school record for career rushing touchdowns. He would finish with 17 rush attempts for 108 yards. Georgia State would miss the PAT, however, and Army would receive the ball with the score 21-20.
The Panthers defense would start the 4th quarter by forcing Army into their first punt of the day. Georgia State would go on to capitalize behind an 11 play, 81-yard drive that ate up 5:25 off the clock.
Senior Tight End Aubry Payne would be the recipient of a beautiful throw up the seam from Ellington to give the Panthers the go-ahead touchdown. Georgia State would convert the two-point conversion and go up 28-21.
Army’s bid for a game-winning scoring drive would stall out after Sophomore Cornerback Quavian White intercepted the ball for the Panthers. They would go on to run out the clock.
Georgia State will be in action again next Saturday vs. Troy University.