WR Cornelius McCoy celebrates with teammates during the 2019 contest versus Furman. McCoy’s triumphant return to action Saturday against ULM was a central element in the Panthers’ victory. Photo: Jordan Crawford for THERSdayNight.com
Coming off their worst home loss in program history, the big question facing the Georgia State Panthers ahead of their matchup last Saturday with the Louisiana Monroe Warhawks was their team identity. Losing 51-0 to the only ranked team in the conference is bad enough, but watching your young QB play his worst game of the season and the conference’s best rushing attack get stymied certainly raises plenty of questions going forward. So was it possible to answer any of these thoughts against arguably the worst team in the Sun Belt? Maybe. This is Upon Further Review.
Starting with the QB play, as it has been an interesting topic of discussion the past few weeks. Quad Brown frankly looked great. Quad was able to do what he wanted against the Warhawks, and a large part of that was the return of WR Cornelius McCoy, who returned after missing three games. It was evident that Quad missed his trusty WR, as Brown looked McCoy’s way early and often on Saturday. In his first game in over a month, McCoy hauled in 7 receptions for 118 yards and 2 TDs, including opening the game with a 57-yard catch on the first play from scrimmage. McCoy had 65 of his season high 118 yards on that opening Panther drive, and that set the tone early for Georgia State. McCoy might have had the sexiest statline among the Panther receiving options, but Brown completed at least one pass to nine other Panthers, getting everyone involved and moving the ball seemingly at will. Quad finished the afternoon with 241 passing yards on 20 completions and throwing 3 TDs. Add in his 30 rushing yards and one rushing TD, and that performance was good enough to win him Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Week honors.
To supplement Quad’s passing, the Panthers’ RB room returned to form and produced another game with over 250 yards on the ground. Destin Coates hit hole after hole and Jam Williams and his crazy speed created big play after big play, giving the offensive line an adrenaline shot it was missing versus Coastal. It wasn’t a perfect afternoon for the halfbacks, as Tucker Gregg coughed up a fumble late that gave the Warhawks a small window of opportunity to mount a comeback. But four plays later, the Panthers defense would turn them over on downs and all was forgiven. Running the ball remains the Panthers’ bread and butter, and their performance against Louisiana-Monroe was no exception. Even against inferior competition, the execution by the Panthers was elite.
Defensively, the Panthers performance was admittedly mixed but trending on the good side. On the one hand, allowing a Warhawks team that averages 14 points a game to score 34 doesn’t look great, but on the other hand, the Panthers forced three turnovers and coasted in the second half after going up 42-14 at halftime. It’s safe to say that the second half was less about defensive intensity and more about managing the big play and squashing chances for a Warhawk comeback. The defense made the Warhawks work for those 20 second half points too, allowing a 3rd down conversion rate of 29%. One would have liked to see a more polished defensive effort, but any time your defense and special teams force three game-defining turnovers, that’s a plus. The Panthers mostly rotated starters in and out of the second half, so it makes sense that ULM was able to find points. Had they played all of their starters for a full 60 minutes, the Warhawks more than likely don’t score as often as they did.
So this brings us back to the initial question – who is this Georgia State team and what happens going forward? It is impossible to predict the future, but the Panthers’ ability to score seemingly at will shouldn’t be overlooked despite being shut out by Coastal. While it is true that the Warhawks are inferior Sun Belt competition, there are plenty of bright spots on offense that will keep the Panthers in almost every single game they play. The question has been, and always will be, will the defense hold back the opponent long enough to give the offense the chance? Some weeks, the answer to that question will be no. That happened against Louisiana, Arkansas State and almost happened against Troy. But if the answer is yes, then the Panthers will continue to win plenty of games. If they’re to pull off the upset against App State this week, then they will need to play more like the team that faced the Warhawks and less like the team that got beaten by the Chanticleers.
2020 True Freshman Tracker
Games played (6) – RB Marcus Carroll
Games played (5) – LB Terrell Gordon
Games played (3) – TE Ahmon Green
Games played (2) – LB Justin Abraham, LS Collin Westfelt, QB Mikele Colasurdo
Games played (1) – DB Jalen Tate, OL Mason Cook, WR Tailique Williams, TE Luke Purnell, TE Kris Byrd, WR Kellan Autenrieth