Georgia State (5-5, 4-2 in Sun Belt) exorcised late-game demons of the past and notched a signature win on the road, beating the #21/22 Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (8-2, 4-2 in Sun Belt) 42-40 for their first ranked win in program history. The win moves the Panthers to within one game of bowl eligibility for the third straight season and the fourth time in head coach Shawn Elliott’s five seasons in Atlanta. The win also keeps the streak in this series of the home team never winning, with the Panthers moving to 3-0 all-time in Brooks Stadium.
After holding a 28-16 lead in the 2nd quarter, Georgia State languished on offense, going three-and-out on their first three possessions of the second half, and Coastal rattled off 16 unanswered points to take a 34-28 lead with 9:15 left in the game. But with their backs against the wall, after losing a one-possession game last Thursday at Louisiana and blowing a double-digit lead at Auburn earlier in the year, the Panthers met the moment. On 4th-and-goal at the 2, Darren Grainger rolled to his left and hit an open Terrance Dixon in the end zone for the go-ahead score. Noel Ruiz’s extra point made it 35-34 with 4:53 left and Georgia State soon added on.
On a 3rd-and-13 on the following Chanticleers drive, Jamil Muhammad strip-sacked Bryce Carpenter and Jontrey Hunter fell on the ball at the CCU 8-yard-line. A 4-yard Tucker Gregg touchdown run, his third of the afternoon, made it 42-34 with 2:36 on the clock. Things got dicey when Coastal Carolina marched down the field and found the end zone to cut the deficit back to 2 on an Isaiah Likely 17-yard touchdown reception. But when Shermari Jones was stuffed on the two-point conversion attempt and Ja’Cyais Credle fell on the attempted onside kick, the most consequential win Georgia State have had in program history was complete.
The Panthers were outgained 442-373 by Coastal Carolina, but they found success with a balanced attack on offense. Darren Grainger was an efficient 18-of-24 for 198 yards and two passing touchdowns. TE Roger Carter was his leading receiver for the second game straight, picking up 70 yards on just 3 catches. Sam Pinckney added 6 catches for 63 yards. In the ground game, Jamyest Williams led the way with 82 yards and a score while Tucker Gregg got most of the glory with 67 yards and a trio of rushing touchdowns. Coastal Carolina were without star quarterback Grayson McCall, who missed his second straight game with an upper-body injury. The aforementioned Bryce Carpenter started in his place and went 17-of-29 for 233 yards with a touchdown and an interception, taking four sacks on the afternoon from the Georgia State defense.
Big plays were hurting Georgia State’s defense early. On the opening drive of the afternoon, a 39-yard Jaivon Heiligh catch gave Coastal a 1st-and-goal at the 1. Shermari Jones gave the Chanticleers their first points on a 1-yard touchdown run the next play. Later in the quarter, Braydon Bennett took an option pitch 75 yards for a score on the first play of a Chanticleers drive. Luckily for Georgia State, the offense matched the scores at each time of asking. A Tucker Gregg 2-yard rushing TD capped off an 11-play, 75-play drive that made it 7-7 with 3:40 left in the opening quarter. And after Bennett’s quick strike touchdown, the Panthers marched down the field in 8 plays and 2:06 to tie the game again, this time courtesy of a 3-yard Aubry Payne touchdown catch. On that drive, Darren Grainger was 4-of-5 for 61 yards and the touchdown pass.
The Panthers then came up with the first big impact play on the defensive side of the ball when Quavian White intercepted a Bryce Carpenter pass and returned it 36 yards to the Coastal 1-yard-line. That takeaway tied White with former Panther great Chandon Sullivan at the top of the all-time leaderboard with 7 career interceptions. On the first play of the 2nd quarter, Tucker Gregg punched it in for his second touchdown of the half, giving Georgia State their first lead of the game. Coastal Carolina were forced to punt on their next possession but used their special teams unit to flip the field and create their first big play on defense. After Charles Ouverson pinned the Panthers at their 3-yard-line with his coffin corner punt, Darren Grainger was sacked in the end zone for a safety that cut Georgia State’s lead to 21-16 with 9:30 left in the first half.
The Panthers’ defense came up with a stop after the ensuing safety kickoff, though, and the offense kept rolling. After Grainger found Roger Carter and Sam Pinckney for consecutive 3rd-down conversions through the air, an inside run play for Jamyest Williams turned into a home run, 36-yard touchdown to give Georgia State a double-digit lead with 5:02 to go in the 2nd quarter. But the Chanticleers got one more chance in the half to cut the deficit back to single digits and did so when Shermari Jones got an 8-yard rushing touchdown with 45 seconds left to bring an action-packed first half to an end.
The Panthers are now done with their road schedule in 2021, finishing with a 3-3 away record. They’ll wrap up the season with two home games, the first of which is next Saturday against the Red Wolves of Arkansas State. The game at Center Parc Stadium gets underway at 2pm Eastern and it can be seen on ESPN+.