Panthers Fall to #19 Louisiana in Hard-Fought OT Battle
RB Destin Coates (center) receives congratulations from teammates at the conclusion of the 2019 contest versus Arkansas State. Coates had a career performance in Saturday’s loss to #19 Louisiana. Photo credit: Jordan Crawford for THERSdayNight.com
Georgia State (0-1, 0-1 in Sun Belt) couldn’t hold onto a 21-7 second-half lead despite a career day from running back Destin Coates, eventually losing a heartbreaker in overtime to the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns (1-0, 1-0 in Sun Belt) 34-31. Coates, a junior from Tallahassee, FL, paced the Panthers’ rushing attack with a career-best 150 yards on the ground. In his first start in college, redshirt freshman quarterback Quad Brown finished on 196 yards passing and 64 yards rushing, two total touchdowns and an interception. For the Cajuns, QB Levi Lewis tossed for 279 yards and running back Elijah Mitchell exploded in the second half to end on 164 yards and two scores.
The Panthers jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first half and led 21-7 after a Marcus Carroll 2-yard touchdown run with 10:49 left in the third quarter. But ultimately, big plays on offense led Louisiana back into the game, and they eventually took their first lead of the afternoon at 28-21 with 11 minutes to go on a Trey Ragas touchdown run. With their backs against the wall, the Panthers put together their best drive of the second half to tie the game on Coates’ lone touchdown of the game and, after both teams missed on opportunities in enemy territory, the game went to overtime. After Georgia State went on offense to start, Noel Ruiz made a 25-yard field goal to give them the initial lead in the extra period, but Elijah Mitchell’s 12-yard touchdown on the ensuing possession ended the Panthers’ upset bid.
The teams traded three-and-outs to start until the first big break of the game went the Cajuns’ way, as Georgia State running back Tucker Gregg fumbled on a would-be 3rd-down conversion and Louisiana’s Chauncey Manac pounced on the loose ball at the GSU 46. After a 21-yard Trey Ragas run, though, the Cajuns offense stalled out, and they came up empty when Nate Snyder’s 47-yard field goal attempt missed wide left.
After a slow start, Brown eventually found his footing as the signal-caller and the Panthers used a heavy dose of the running game and no-huddle to march down the field after Snyder’s missed kick. After a 12-yard Coates run took Georgia State inside the red zone for the first time of the season, Quad called his own number and ran it in from 12 yards out for the Panthers’ first points of the season. Another defensive stop from the stingy Georgia State defense gave their offense another turn and they made it two scores in two drives when a busted coverage left tight end Roger Carter wide open to scamper in for the 28-yard score and the double-digit underdogs were up by double digits early in the 2nd quarter.
After going down 14 on the road, the Cajuns started finding a rhythm in the passing game and Levi Lewis got the first of his two touchdowns on the day, a 18-yard pitch and catch to Chris Smith, with 1:33 to go until halftime. Lewis had designs on a second touchdown in as many minutes after the Cajuns forced a quick stop of the Panthers, but junior cornerback Quavian White came up with an INT to keep it a 14-7 Georgia State going into the break.
The first drive of the second half for Louisiana ended the same way as their last possession of the first half, as a tipped ball fell into the hands of senior linebacker Victor Heyward for the Panthers’ second interception on the day. The Panthers took the momentum from the forced turnover and marched down the field, culminating in Carroll’s first career rushing touchdown in his first collegiate game, to take their largest lead at 14. Helped out by a drive-extending face mask penalty by Georgia State, Louisiana was able to answer back immediately – with Lewis finding Kyren Lacy in the end zone to cut the lead back to 7 with 6:15 left in the third quarter.
From here, the Georgia State offense stalled out on successive drives and the Cajuns front started to wear on a tiring Panthers defense. Mitchell took off nearly untouched on a 59-yard run that tied the game to tie things up for Louisiana, and he followed that up the next drive with a 53-yard run down to the 1 to set up his team-mate Ragas to punch it in. After struggling much of the second half, the offense for Georgia State found their rhythm again on a 13-play, 75-yard drive that was capped off by Coates’ game-tying touchdown with 7:37 to go.
After the teams traded short possessions, Louisiana ended up with favorable field position after a good punt return from Eric Garror and started out at the Georgia State 45. Facing a 4th-and-short from the 39, Cajuns coach Billy Napier rolled the dice and went for it and Georgia State’s defense came up with their biggest play of the afternoon, a sack by Hardrick Willis and Jeffery Clark for a loss of 15 yards. This set the Panthers offense up in primo position to go for the win, but they were unable to gain a first down and were forced to punt the ball back to Louisiana from the UL 44, ultimately sending the game to overtime and to the final result.
The Panthers head on the road next to face Charlotte. Kickoff is set for noon next Saturday, September 26. The game will be nationally broadcast on ESPNU.