Georgia State Comes From Behind, Wins Late Against Rival Georgia Southern
Photo: Jordan Crawford for THERSdayNight.com
Georgia State (5-4, 4-4 in Sun Belt) overcame an 11-point 4th quarter deficit, scoring the final 17 points and stunning Georgia Southern (6-4, 4-3 in Sun Belt) 30-24 on Senior Day, taking the lead in the all-time series at 4-3 and winning back some in-state bragging rights. This win also gives the Panthers back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in program history. On a day where the Georgia State rushing attack was stuffed for just 55 yards, freshman QB Quad Brown shined, breaking his career high for the second consecutive week with 372 passing yards. Sam Pinckney led the way for the Panthers receiving corps with 127 yards, Cornelius McCoy had 111 yards and a score and Terrance Dixon added 77 yards, including a key 31-yard reception late in the 4th quarter. For the Eagles, Logan Wright had 143 yards rushing and two scores on just eight carries.
After Wright’s second touchdown of the game made it 24-13 on the first play of the 4th quarter, the Panthers answered immediately with a touchdown drive of their own and forced the Eagles to stall out after a promising drive that could have finished off the game. Taking possession with 7:42 to go, Quad Brown and the Panthers put together a 10-play, 69-yard drive that ended when Brown called his own number for a 1-yard QB sneak. After a successful two-point conversion, Georgia State led 27-24 with 2:54 remaining – their first lead since an early 3-0 lead. Then, the Panthers defense put their stamp on the game with two turnovers. First, Jordan Strachan stripped Georgia Southern backup QB Justin Tomlin and Blake Carroll scooped it up for the first forced turnover of the game. When Noel Ruiz added his third field goal of the game to make it 30-24 with 1:53 left, the Eagles had to drive 75 yards and find the end zone to steal a win late. When junior cornerback Qua White intercepted Tomlin on a miscommunication between quarterback and receiver, the rivalry win and the 4th quarter comeback was complete.
After the win, Georgia State head coach Shawn Elliott praised what he called “truly a team effort – offensively, defensively, special teams all had to come together.” He added, “It’s really a gratifying thing to see because you get down there and you have to fight back there in the 4th quarter and make it happen, in all three phases, and our players did just a tremendous job of keeping their heads up – and let me say this, that our coaches did a marvelous job as well – and pulled out that victory.”
Both teams were missing key contributors. The Panthers were without the services of defensive lineman Dontae Wilson and safety Antavious Lane for the second game in a row while Georgia Southern was missing four players who were suspended earlier in the week following their arrests – Wesley Kennedy III, CJ Wright, Ephraim Kitchen and Chris Harris Jr – as well as Reynard Ellis and Randy Wade, two starters on defense who didn’t make the trip to Atlanta.
Down 3-0 early, after a quick three-and-out on their first drive, the Georgia Southern offense had much more success on their second drive, keeping the Panthers defense guessing and mixing up play calls to surgically move it down the field. On the first play of the 2nd quarter, QB Shai Werts – himself a game-time decision due to injury – took the ball in the end zone himself from 7 yards out to cap a 13-play, 75-yard drive that put the Eagles on top.
The Georgia Southern defense forced a three-and-out on the following drive and Werts and the Eagle offense picked up right where they had left off. Facing a 3rd-and-4 from the GSU 37, junior running back Logan Wright took a handoff up the middle and ran untouched 63 yards for the score. Disaster struck on offense for Georgia State when Justin Ellis rushed untouched around the corner and forced a Quad Brown fumble – Raymond Johnson III picked up for the Eagles to set them up in prime field position at the GSU 45. But after allowing touchdowns on the previous two drives, the Panthers defense stood tall and forced a three-and-out, not allowing Georgia Southern to capitalize on the first turnover of the game.
That stop averted a disastrous first half for Georgia State and kept them in the game. On the first play following Anthony Beck’s punt, Brown unloaded a deep ball down the sideline which Cornelius McCoy hauled in for a 44-yard gain and the Panthers were back in business after scuffling for most of the half. A quick tempo passing game after McCoy’s big catch set the Panthers up in the red zone for the second time of the half. But for the second time, they had to settle for a Ruiz field goal which made it 14-6 with 5:35 to go in the half. Shai Werts and Khaleb Hood connected for a 44-yard gain of Georgia Southern’s own on the ensuing drive to set the Eagles up well. However, the Georgia State defense locked down in their own territory the second time running and eventually forced an Alex Raynor missed 52-yard field goal attempt. Riding the momentum of two key stops on defense, with 46 seconds left in the first half, the Panthers were able to cut the halftime deficit back to 1 when Brown and McCoy connected for another big play, this time for a 45-yard TD catch.
Right out of the gates in the 3rd quarter, Georgia Southern got momentum squarely back in their corner when Logan Wright took the opening carry of the half 56 yards inside the Georgia State 15. The Georgia State defense was able to come up with another red zone stop, but Raynor’s 29-yard field goal still extended the Eagles’ lead to 17-13 with 12:08 remaining in the quarter. The defenses traded haymakers, grinding the game to a halt with two stops apiece, before the next signature moment of the game transpired. Flushed from the pocket on 3rd-and-6, Quad Brown threw a deep ball up for Cornelius McCoy but Kenderick Duncan read it the whole way and brought in the interception. After Duncan’s 25-yard return set the Eagles up at the GSU 37, they made quick work of the good field position. Three plays later, on the first snap of the 4th quarter, Logan Wright punched in his second touchdown of the afternoon and it was a 24-13 Georgia Southern lead before the late heroics by Georgia State.
On the impact of the rivalry win, Coach Elliott had this to say: “It means something. This game right here, it means something to all of us.” He went on, “I certainly do appreciate them letting us into this rivalry, so to speak,” alluding to comments made earlier in the week by Georgia Southern head coach Chad Lunsford.
The 2020 regular season is over for Georgia State and they await any pending bowl invitation. Keep it locked to THERSdayNight.com for any information on bowl games.