Game 5 Preview: Arkansas State
The Georgia State Panthers (2-2) fresh off a bye-week return to Georgia State Stadium this week, looking to snap their 2-game skid as they host the Arkansas State Red Wolves (3-2) in front of a hometown Homecoming Day crowd. The Panthers are 0-5 all-time against Arkansas State, with their 2018 meeting ending in a 35-51 loss in Jonesboro.
The last time the Panthers were in action was two weeks ago when they lost a nailbiter to Texas State in double overtime to open Sun Belt Conference play. Meanwhile, the past two weeks have been very kind to the Red Wolves as they have picked up wins against Southern Illinois and Troy, scoring a combined 91 points in the process. Heading into Atlanta, the Red Wolves have scored at least 30 points in 4 of their 5 games, reaching as high as 50 in last week’s game against Troy.
Starting quarterback Logan Bonner was ruled out for the season with a hand injury suffered in the win against Southern Illinois, but freshman fill-in Layne Hatcher did not skip a beat, and certainly looked the part of a college quarterback last week against Troy. Hatcher commanded the offense to their highest passing and total yard total of the season with 455 and 558 yards respectively. The Red Wolves have three running backs who have eclipsed 130 yards this season. Marcel Murray will get the Lionshare of the snaps, and the Panthers will be wise to contain him. Murray is averaging five yards per attempt on the ground. Georgia State has not been burned too much in the passing game of late, so it will be on the defense to adjust to a team that very clearly wants to throw – and throw a lot. The Panthers have their work cut out for them as this is easily the best offense they have faced to date. The defense must be creative in getting stops and forcing turnovers to give themselves a chance.
On the other side of the ball, the Red Wolves defense has been less than stellar, especially of late. They are averaging a paltry 500 yards allowed per game. The only team not to have 500 yards against Arkansas State was UNLV who managed only 300 yards of total offense against the Red Wolves. Even removing the 656 yards allowed against the University of Georgia, the Red Wolves would still average over 460 yards per game. Teams move the ball incredibly well against this Red Wolves defense, and Georgia State should be no exception. There is no specific way to beat the Red Wolves defense, as they have struggled against both the pass and the run in 2019. An effective run game for Georgia State should help keep their own defense off the field, and keep the ball out of the hands of the potent Red Wolves offense. Turnovers also will be critical for the Panthers to avoid. The Red Wolves have already secured six turnovers, with four coming in the last two weeks, so the Panthers must be careful not to repeat their careless mistakes that plagued them in San Marcos. Taking care of the ball will be of the utmost importance Saturday, and the Panthers cannot let the Red Wolves defense get off the field with ease.
After starting the season 2-0, the Panthers have had a less than stellar past few weeks. Their bye week came at a great time as they return home for a Homecoming festivities and a celebration for the 10-year anniversary of the program. This should help revive some of the mojo that the team developed after the Tennessee win back in August. The rest of the season won’t be decided on Saturday, but a broader picture is painted with each passing week. A win against the preseason Sun Belt West favorite would go a long way to showing the world who these Panthers really are.