Georgia State Overcomes Late Hijinks, Escape Troy with 36-34 Win
TE Roger Carter catches a pass during the 2019 win over Army. Carter had 7 receptions for 72 yards as well as 2 touchdowns in tonight’s victory over the Troy Trojans. Photo: Jordan Crawford for THERSdayNight.com
After falling behind 21-10 on consecutive turnovers for touchdowns, Georgia State (2-2, 1-2 in Sun Belt) rattled off 23 unanswered points and held on through some late-game nervy moments to escape with their first Sun Belt win of the season, beating Troy (3-2, 1-1 in Sun Belt) 36-34. Down 36-28 late in the 4th quarter, Troy threw an interception and turned it over downs on successive possessions, only to get another shot when Destin Coates fumbled the ball away with a chance to ice the game. With 80 seconds left, Troy’s offense took over with one final shot and found the endzone when Troy’s backup QB Jacob Free connected with Reggie Todd in the back of the end zone. However, Free’s two-point conversion attempt sailed out of the end zone and the score remained 36-34 ahead of a pivotal onside kick with 37 seconds to go. Todd came up big for the second time in as many plays for Troy and recovered the kick, but after a replay review, he was ruled to have illegally touched the ball just short of the 10 yards required and Georgia State pulled out the win.
Georgia State coach Shawn Elliott called it “an ugly win, an ugly contest”. He gave a lot of credit to Troy for what he termed “our ugliness tonight”, saying they “had a lot to do with it. [Troy head coach] Chip Lindsey and that bunch do a great job,” but he praised his team’s “poise to come back and really take control in the 3rd quarter,” adding, “I’m really proud of them.” Drawing on the team’s disappointment after losing late to Arkansas State last week, he said he told the team before the game, “I want you to understand – you can’t be defeated until the clock hits zero, so I don’t want us to ever look like that again. And I thought at times against Arkansas State, we did look defeated, but not tonight. Didn’t matter what the situation was.”
The vaunted Georgia State rushing attack started slow but rounded into form with 210 yards on the ground, paced by Coates’ 115. Quad Brown took his lumps in his second road start with two turnovers but ended the night with 169 passing yards and three total touchdowns. Tight end Roger Carter was Brown’s biggest target, finishing with 7 catches for 72 yards and two scores. Junior OLB Jordan Strachan dazzled on defense for the Panthers, leading with 2.5 sacks, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. In relief of injured starter Gunnar Watson, Free tossed for 329 yards and two scores, though his two interceptions proved costly for the Trojans. Troy ended the game with 407 passing yards and got major contributions from Reggie Todd (8 catches, 130 yards and a TD), Kaylon Geiger (5 for 88) and Khalil McClain (5 for 65 and a TD).
The Panthers marched down the field after winning the coin toss and electing to receive to begin the game. An 11-play, 75-yard drive that leaned heavily on bubble screens to Destin Coates finished with success when Brown found TE Roger Carter over the middle from 4 yards to open the scoring. The defense stood tall on their first two possessions but the Georgia State offense couldn’t take advantage of two possessions that got into plus territory and came away with 0 points. Backed up in their own red zone, the Troy offense got it going on drive number three and went 87 yards in 8 plays to tie the game. After a 31-yard Marcus Rogers reception on a 2nd-and-23 and then aided by a Jaylon Jones defensive pass interference penalty, the Trojans found the red zone for the first time of the game and, two plays later, the end zone on a 10-yard TD reception by Khalil McClain. On the touchdown pass, however, Troy’s QB Watson came up injured and was knocked out of the rest of the game.
After a response drive for Georgia State that ended in a 46-yard Noel Ruiz field goal that reinstated the Panthers’ lead, turnovers quickly became the story of the 2nd quarter. Backup QB Jacob Free came in and picked up where Watson had left off, airing it out and finding Kaylon Geiger over the middle for a 39-yard gain into the red zone. But two plays later, Blake Carroll forced a Vidal fumble and Jordan Strachan returned it into Troy territory to end the threat. A 15-yard penalty on the return backed the Georgia State offense up and they stalled out and were forced into another Ruiz field goal attempt. This time, the NC A&T transfer missed from 53 yards and the Panthers couldn’t take advantage of the turnover. Then, after Evan Legassey missed a 29-yard field goal to spoil a second straight Troy red zone trip, a Quad Brown dropback ended in disaster. Brown’s pass sailed past the intended Matlin Marshall and found the arms of Troy corner Reddy Steward, who returned his first collegiate interception 38 yards for the score and a Trojans lead, 14-10. And then on the ensuing drive, DL Will Choloh came around the edge on Quad’s blind side and sacked him, forcing a fumble which Shakel Brown scooped up and took back for a 21-yard score that marked Troy’s second defensive touchdown in as many minutes. The Panthers got their largely-dormant ground game going on their final drive of the half, stopping the bleeding with a 31-yard Ruiz field goal before the break, but Troy took an 8-point lead into the locker room.
Troy kept it rolling on offense on their first drive of the second half, taking it inside the Georgia State 10-yard-line, but the Georgia State defense came up with another stop when it mattered when safety Ant Lane came down with an interception in the end zone. Set up in good field position after Lane returned his INT out to the 42, the Georgia State offense capitalized this time. Facing a 4th-and-short on the Troy 27, the offense stayed on the field and Tucker Gregg took the handoff around the corner untouched to score, cutting the Troy lead to 1. After forcing a three-and-out on defense, the Panthers kept it moving on offense and took the lead back when a busted coverage by Troy left Roger Carter wide open on a wheel route – Quad hit him for the 36-yard reception, his second touchdown of the game. The Georgia State defense then took their turn to force their second turnover in as many possessions when Jordan Strachan strip-sacked Free and fell on the fumble himself inside the Troy 10. After a Coates rushing touchdown was negated by a holding penalty and a Troy defensive pass interference in the end zone on 3rd down extended the drive, Brown called his own number and ran it in from 2 yards out to give Georgia State their largest lead to that point, 33-21.
Another Strachan sack ended a Troy drive shy of midfield, but after the Trojans successfully flipped field position on their next defensive possession and let their offense take over just shy of midfield, they found the end zone on their first drive of the final quarter. Free connected with TE AJ Lewis from 2 yards out after Georgia State’s own defensive pass interference in the end zone to cut the deficit down to 33-28 with 13:29 to go. The Georgia State offense was able to milk 6:35 off the clock on their ensuing 14-play, 55-yard drive to push their lead to 8 and require Troy to score a touchdown and two-point conversion and set off the end-of-game madness.
The Panthers return home next and host the nationally-ranked Coastal Carolina Chanticleers on Halloween. The game kicks off from Center Parc Stadium at 12pm EDT and can be found nationally on ESPNU.