The Georgia State Panthers (1-4, 0-1 in Sun Belt) head over to Monroe, Louisiana for their first conference road game, as they take on the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks (2-2, 1-1 in Sun Belt). Georgia State will travel to face the Warhawks fresh off a 45-16 home defeat at the hands of Appalachian State and eager to get back to even footing in their conference slate. Louisiana-Monroe dropped their first Sun Belt game as well, losing 59-6 to a ranked Coastal Carolina in Conway. Terry Bowden is in his first season as the head man of ULM. Since Shawn Elliott’s first season in charge at Georgia State, the Panthers are 3-1 versus ULM. This matchup presents the quintessential “Get right game” for Georgia State as the team has a number of questions heading into this matchup.
For Georgia State, the offense has had an inconsistent start to the 2021 campaign, and last week’s contest against the Mountaineers was another rung in the inconsistency ladder. Presumptive 2021 starting quarterback Quad Brown played the role of option two, as he relieved newly-named starter Darren Grainger after two poor drives to begin the game against the Mountaineers. While no starter has been named for the contest against the Warhawks, Coach Elliott said in his weekly press availability that whoever he names as the starter before the game would be the starter moving forward.
Whoever it is, getting the passing game working should be a big priority for Georgia State. The Panthers had their best game through the air last week to the tune of almost 250 yards passing between the two quarterbacks. Quad had the lion’s share of the yards, but Grainger threw the only touchdown in the game. Quad looked more confident under center, but the offense stalled in the red zone during the few offensive drives that moved well. The Warhawks have allowed the second-most passing yards per game in the conference, so the passing game has an opportunity to unlock itself this week. Avoiding Ty Shelby will be important to achieve this goal, as the defensive end has half of the team’s 10 sacks. The Panthers like to run a balanced offense and are certainly looking to bounce back from a relatively quiet performance a week ago, but the Warhawks have been much better at defending the run through four games. Whatever Georgia State’s game plan is, a cohesive offensive attack is very much in order.
Last week was not the best showing for the Panthers defensively, and this week will be another opportunity to produce some better results for the unit. Warhawks starting QB Rhett Rodriguez has been dealing with a fairly serious lung injury, so in his place, the Georgia State defense will see some combination of Chandler Rogers and Colby Suits. The Panthers will be without safeties Chris Bacon and Chris Moore, as the former entered the transfer portal this week and the latter is required to sit out the first half of this game due to the targeting penalty he received in the second half of the game against App State. The Panthers defense line is also in need of a bounce-back. Georgia State has only been able to get 7 sacks on the season. No one on the Panther defensive line has more than 0.5 sacks and the Warhawks offensive line has allowed 14 on the year, so getting to the quarterback will be priority number 1 for Georgia State.
The Warhawks are dealing with some injuries on offense, but as a whole, the unit has not produced great numbers on offense this season. Their season-high point mark of 29 came against Troy two weeks ago in their Sun Belt opener, but that was the only time they have scored more than 12 points in a game this season. That 29 points also includes a safety forced by the defense and a 96-yard pick-six scored by Ja’Cquez Williams. The injury to Rodriguez has certainly been a factor, but the Warhawks have just not found themselves in the red zone too many times this season. Worse for them – when they have been in their opponent’s 20, they’ve scored just one touchdown in their six trips, and it came all the way back in Week 1. For the offense to be successful, they will have to improve this against a Georgia State defense which has only given up two red zone touchdowns the past three weeks. Whether it be Rogers or Suits, the Panthers have allowed over 250 passing yards three times this season and will be forced to start redshirt freshman Jalen Tate in the secondary in his first career start. There may be opportunities down field if the pass rush for Georgia State can’t get home and that’s where ULM will have to make things happen.
The schedule for Georgia State begins to soften through the next few weeks after a brutal opening five-game stretch. Taking advantage of this game is important for the Panthers to right the ship and gain some stability on both sides of the ball. Kickoff from Malone Stadium in Louisiana is at 8pm Eastern and the game can be caught on ESPN3.