Game 2 Preview: Furman
Coming off a program-defining win in Knoxville last Saturday, a 38-30 upset of the Tennessee Volunteers, the Georgia State Panthers (1-0) will look to keep the momentum going in their home opener against the Furman Paladins (1-0) of the Southern Conference.
Furman comes into this one after a convincing 46-13 victory over Charleston Southern and will be hungry for its first win over an FBS opponent since UCF in 2015. The Paladins will throw a lot of different looks at Georgia State offensively. In the game against Charleston Southern – even a game which head coach Clay Hendrix acknowledged he used a limited playbook for – they lined up in a flexbone set, a shotgun set and a power-I set – at least. So the Paladins will look to keep Georgia State guessing and will rely on their experienced offensive line – led by junior left tackle Bo Layton – to create holes for the run game, racking up 369 rushing yards in their opening win. Furman has a redshirt freshman starter at quarterback, Darren Grainger, who will be starting his first road game as a collegiate athlete. Keeping Grainger off-stride and getting him rattled in the hostile road environment should be an early goal for the Panthers D.
On defense, the Paladins have an experienced group spearheaded by a trio of seniors – linebacker Donavan Perryman, safety Bryan Okeh and Jordan Willis at the hybrid spur position. Similar to Georgia State, Furman are relatively undersized in the front seven but will look to utilize their speed and varying schematic looks to stifle the Panthers on offense. If Georgia State’s offensive line can have the success they did last week against an SEC defensive front, the Panthers should be able to put up points Saturday – but that’s not a given and the Panthers will have to expect to have the kitchen sink thrown at them by defensive coordinator Duane Vaughn’s unit.
For Georgia State, another day of valuing the football, by limiting turnovers and holding onto the ball for long stretches of the game, will go a long way towards a win. However, Furman’s offense will also be predicated on holding onto the ball, so it’s important for the Panther defense to get off the field on 3rd down better than against Tennessee (8/13 on 3rd down conversions allowed). Furman cracked off their two biggest runs of the day, a pair of 66-yarders, against CSU in the 4th quarter after wearing down the Buccaneers in the first three quarters, so keeping the defense fresh will be a must on Saturday for GSU.
This is a Furman team coming in confident and taking pride in their conditioning, Perryman going as far as to say to the Greenville News, “We’re going to be the most conditioned team on the field every game that we play” in the buildup to this one. Georgia State looked fit in their opener as well – and if the Panthers can withstand the early energy of Furman and get out in front, the scholarship discrepancy between FCS and FBS could rear its ugly head by the end of the game. But as Georgia State showed last Saturday, no games can be taken for granted in college football.
In an injury note, Coach Elliott has announced starting OLB Jordan Strachan will miss the rest of the 2019 season with a knee injury. Sophomore Jhi’Shawn Taylor filled in well in a reserve role Saturday, getting a fumble recovery, and will be the starter going forward.