Georgia State quarterback Cornelius Brown IV in 2020. Photo via John Amis, AP
Georgia State (0-1) couldn’t get out of their own way and struggled mightily in their 2021 season opener, falling to the Army Black Knights (1-0) 43-10. Early turnovers, mental lapses and a bevy of untimely penalties haunted the Panthers, as Army jumped out to a 21-0 lead and never looked back. Georgia State sputtered all afternoon on the offensive side of the ball, finishing with just 176 yards of offense, their lowest output since the 106 total yards they amassed in last year’s 51-0 loss to Coastal Carolina. The 48 net rushing yards by the Panthers is the new low watermark of offensive coordinator Brad Glenn’s time in Atlanta.
Cornelious “Quad” Brown IV slumped to start his sophomore season, finishing 12-20 for 129 yards and 1 interception. He was also sacked three times. Destin Coates led the Panthers’ runners with 48 yards and a touchdown while sophomore WR Jamari Thrash was a lone bright spot for the offense, bringing in 7 catches for 87 yards. Thrash was moved into a starting role because of the late-breaking news that Panthers were to be without starters WR Sam Pinckney, OLB Jontrey Hunter and CB Quavian White due to Covid protocols. Army finished with 258 yards on the ground, a balanced effort led by QB Christian Anderson’s 55 yards. The Black Knights were extra efficient when they did throw the ball, collectively completing three of four attempted passes for 98 yards and two scores.
Georgia State head coach Shawn Elliott was disappointed in the team’s performance, opening his opening remarks by saying, “This game was about toughness today. You quickly saw who was the tougher team out there. From our opening possession, with the fumble right there, things just went south.” He went on, “We didn’t play that well all the way around. I mean, we really didn’t. It was an embarrassing effort,” though he shouldered the blame for his players, saying, “I prepared the team, and it wasn’t…the way to go out and win” and put the emphasis on cleaning it up for the rest of the season.
Sloppiness defined the game for the Panthers and it started right from the opening kick. After receiving the ball to start the game, a mishandle on a run play between Quad Brown and Destin Coates led to a fumble which Army pounced on on the Panthers’ 40-yard-line. Eight plays and a 4-yard Tyson Riley touchdown run later, Army made State pay for the early error. After their next drive stalled due to more missed assignments and miscommunications, Georgia State almost made their first bit of luck of the afternoon by recovering muffed punts on back-to-back punt tries, but each one was knocked out by a holding penalty by the protection team. The Black Knights once again were more than happy to take advantage of the extra chances Georgia State gave them. AJ Howard Jr took a toss sweep around the edge and snuck in the corner of the end zone from 4 yards out to double Army’s advantage with 1:59 left in the opening quarter, finishing off a 10-play, 61-yard drive.
The woes on offense continued for Georgia State in the form of a three-and-out the following drive, and Army ran it down the field in a drive split between the first and second quarter. The Panthers’ defense put up resistance, but after 13 plays and 7 minutes off the clock, Jakobi Buchanan punched it in from 2 yards out to give the Black Knights a three-touchdown lead.
What followed was Georgia State’s offensive and defensive possession of the half, just in time to provide an answer for Army’s first-half onslaught. The Georgia State offense looked like the explosive unit of years past as they marched 75 yards down the field and got on the scoreboard courtesy of a 16-yard Destin Coates touchdown run and the defense answered with a stop of their own after LB Jordan Veneziale stuffed QB Christian Anderson for a loss of two on 3rd-and-4.
However, the sloppiness reared its head once more before the halftime break. A poor decision to fair catch a punt set the Panthers up at their own 7, and a miscommunication between Quad Brown and a receiver on the 1st down play led to an interception by Jabari Moore at the 9-yard-line. On 4th-and-goal from the 2 – the final play of the half – Anderson scored on a designed QB run to capitalize on another costly mistake by the Panthers. Although Georgia State blocked the PAT, Army had restored their three-score lead – as well as their grip on the game – heading to the locker rooms.
After the break, not much changed for the Panthers’ fortunes. The Georgia State defense held strong on the opening drive and forced Army to punt, but when Destin Coates was stopped inches short on a 4th-and-2 on the offense’s next drive, the Black Knights took over on downs at the Panthers’ 40. They only took one play to add onto their lead, a 40-yard pitch-and-catch from Anderson to Tyrell Robinson down the middle of the field that made it 33-7 Black Knights with 9:33 in the 3rd quarter. The teams traded field goals before a 32-yard Jemel Jones touchdown pass to Braheam Murphy put an exclamation point on the win for Army.
On the offense’s struggles, particularly with the early turnover that completely shifted the momentum of the game for good, Coach Elliott noted turnovers hadn’t been an issue throughout fall camp and said, “When that happens the first possession and you’re playing a team like Army… Turnovers are so critical. You have to steal the turnovers.” He added, “It’s almost like you know going into the game if you turn that ball over, you’re behind a possession, you are, and it was not a good feeling.”
Georgia State is back in action next week, as they travel on the road for the first time in 2021 to face North Carolina on Saturday, September 11. Kick-off is at 7:30pm EDT and can be seen regionally on Bally Sports South and across the country online on ESPN3.