Panthers Grit Out 28-16 Home Win Over Texas State

Tucker Gregg in motion against Troy. Photo: Michael Wade

Georgia State (3-4, 2-1 in Sun Belt) overcame a sluggish start to beat Texas State (2-5, 1-2 in Sun Belt)  28-16, outscoring the Bobcats 14-3 in the second half to win their second straight conference game. This marks the first time Georgia State has won consecutive games in 2021. The Panthers ran for 303 yards – their second-highest total this season after the 326 they tallied in their previous win over ULM – and outgained Texas State in total yards 501 to 392. Tucker Gregg led the effort on the ground with 115 yards and Jamyest Williams added 77 yards and two touchdowns. Additionally, on a 21-yard gain in the 1st quarter, Gregg exceeded 1,000 career rushing yards at Georgia State. Darren Grainger had an all-around effort at quarterback, completing 16 of 25 passes for 200 yards and 2 passing TDs and running it for 106 yards.

Nursing a 14-13 lead out of the break, the Panthers restored their advantage to 8 when Jamyest Williams scored his second rushing touchdown of the afternoon on a 28-yard scamper with 8:10 left in the 3rd quarter. The game had stayed within one score either way all day to that point and Texas State looked primed to respond with a touchdown drive of their own when they punched into the red zone on their following drive, but the Georgia State defense held up, forcing Seth Keller to kick his third field goal of the game and preserving a 21-16 Panthers lead. The Panthers then made it two touchdown drives in two when they embarked on an 11-play, 75-yard scoring drive that gave them their largest lead of the game, 28-16, on a Darren Grainger 27-yard TD pass to TE Aubry Payne, on what was the first play of the final quarter. The Bobcats took possessions into Georgia State territory on two more occasions with an eye on making it a close game late, but both drives ended in turnovers – a Jaylon Jones interception at the 3-yard-line with 9:35 left and a Dontae Wilson fumble recovery with a minute left that clinched the win for the Panthers.

Georgia State head coach Shawn Elliott was ultimately satisfied with the win, saying, “In the first half, we had the ball offensively for just over 10 minutes and had the lead going in and our defense was holding them to field goals, and we felt very comfortable coming in here at halftime and we felt like we were going to pull away. And we didn’t pull away quite as far as we would’ve liked, of course, but we really did a great job.” He gave credit to his guys for fighting to the end for the win and for the defense coming up with those key turnovers late, saying, “These wins are tough.”

Georgia State took a while to shake off the bye week cobwebs. Texas State elected to receive to start the contest and promptly marched down the field. After a Brady McBride scramble set up the Bobcats in the red zone, a Marcell Barbee receiving TD was wiped off the books due to a pass interference penalty on Barbee. Given this new life, the Georgia State defense stood up and forced a 42-yard Seth Keller field goal. The Panthers’ offense was similarly stuck in the mud to begin the afternoon, going three-and-out and losing a fumble on their first two drives. Thankfully for their sake, the defense stepped up and only allowed another 42-yard Keller field goal off of those two drives.

Facing their worst field position of the afternoon, backed up to their own 1 after an excellent punt by the Bobcats, the Georgia State offense got out of first gear and powered all the way down the field in seven plays. After Jamyest Williams took a handoff up the middle untouched for a 19-yard touchdown, the 99-yard drive was complete and the Panthers had their first lead of the game, 7-6, with 54 seconds left in the opening quarter. The margin in total yards had been 109-8 in favor of Texas State after their scoring drives to open the game. After Georgia State stormed into the lead, the difference at the end of the 1st favored the Panthers 169-125. The Georgia State defense forced a quick three-and-out and the offense picked up where they had left off in the 2nd quarter and struck fast to extend their lead to 14-6, via a 35-yard Jamari Thrash touchdown catch 30 seconds into the new period. 

The Bobcats weren’t interested in following the script and going quietly back to San Marcos after Georgia State had wrested control of the game. Texas State matched Georgia State’s second touchdown drive with one of their own, finding the end zone for the first time and making it a one-point game again courtesy of a McBride 8-yard touchdown run. The sophomore signal-caller had picked up the previous two first downs for the Bobcats on his legs to set them up in the red zone. Texas State even had a good chance at taking a lead into the locker room when they took themselves in Georgia State territory on their next drive. But a 17-yard loss on a Jontrey Hunter sack ended what looked to be a promising drive for the Bobcats and the Panthers took a fragile 14-13 lead into the 3rd quarter.

Coach Elliott had a lot of praise for his starting running back Tucker Gregg, a former walk-on who earned a scholarship before the 2019 season, calling him “a special, special young man.” He said that Tucker “recruited himself to [Georgia State’s] football program” by reaching out to himself and assistant coach Josh Stepp and showing them videos of him working out and doing football drills, and he played his way into the running back rotation by playing hard on special teams and now holds the #1 spot on the depth chart. 

Gregg had a 1-yard run on the final play of the 3rd quarter where he fought his way through multiple tackles in the backfield to get a 3rd-down conversion, a play that ignited the Georgia State sideline and a play that was followed by the Aubry Payne touchdown on the next play in the 4th quarter. On that 1-yard run, Coach Elliott praised the effort of his running back and said, “If I were to want my son to see one thing today, I’d want him to see that one play.”

The Panthers hit the road next Saturday, October 30, for a rivalry showdown with Georgia Southern and a chance to get back to .500. Kickoff at Paulson Stadium is at 6pm Eastern and the action can be seen on ESPN+.

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