Panthers Pillage Pirates to Pick Up First Win of 2020
Sam Pinckney III scores during the 2019 contest versus Arkansas State. Pinckney had a career-high 134 yards and 2 TDs in Saturday’s 49-29 victory against East Carolina. Photo: Jordan Crawford for THERSdayNight.com
Georgia State (1-1, 0-1 in Sun Belt) were led by some early explosive offense and a dominant defensive performance and overcame a late comeback attempt to notch their first win of the season over AAC foe East Carolina (0-2, 0-1 in AAC), 49-29. Georgia State head coach Shawn Elliott called it “good and very gratifying” to get the win against ECU and “play, at times, exceptionally well.”
After throwing a pick-six on the first play from scrimmage, quarterback Quad Brown recovered to lead Georgia State to a program-high 35 points scored in the first half. He ended the day with 238 passing yards and 3 touchdown passes. Brown had help from Sam Pinckney, who had himself a career day with 134 receiving yards and two touchdowns. For their part, the Georgia State defense pitched a near-perfect game, allowing just two field goals from the ECU offense and holding the Pirates to just 50 rushing yards and 3.7 yards per play. On the defense, Coach Elliott called their effort “phenomenal” and said, “It was an effort for those guys to showcase themselves.” He lauded their ability to “put pressure on [ECU] all day long,” adding, “They had no answer for our defensive line and our pressure.”
The game got off to an inauspicious start for Georgia State when Warren Saba jumped the route on Brown’s first pass of the day and intercepted the pass, taking it 28 yards for the score. But the offense responded to the mistake with haste, scoring in 1 minutes and 24 seconds on the first of two Destin Coates touchdown runs. The defense for Georgia State set the tone early by forcing a three-and-out after stuffing the ECU rushing attack for little or no gain on second and third down. From there, the offense picked up where it had left off the last drive, finding the end zone on back-to-back possessions – first on a Pinckney 38-yard TD reception and then on a 22-yard TD catch for Jamari Thrash, the first of his career.
The scoring party continued for the Panthers in the second quarter when Tucker Gregg took an option pitch in the end zone from 4 yards out to give Georgia State a three-score lead at 28-7. ECU then put together their best drive of the game so far to take it inside the GSU red zone, but the defense held firm and held the Pirates to a 34-yard field goal. The offense responded with another scoring drive, with Quad throwing it up to Pinckney from 18 yards for his second score of the game to give the Panthers a 35-10 lead with 5:26 until the half. That touchdown broke the previous program record for points in a half (34), which was set by the 2010 team against Savannah State. ECU marched down the field again to end the half but the Panther defense again passed muster and held the Pirates to another field goal as time expired in the 2nd quarter and kept their lead at 22 heading into the locker room.
The Panthers squandered both of their opening possessions of the second half, each of which started at or beyond midfield, with turnovers – one a Brown interception, the other a Coates fumble. However, the Georgia State defense brought their same intensity from the first two quarters and ECU was unable to take advantage of either turnover, punting each time. Both offenses struggled through the third quarter, with ECU netting the only points of the period on a 48-yard Verity field goal, and the Panthers took a 35-16 lead into the final interval. After another Georgia State drive ended without points, the defense took matters in their own hands, as freshman safety Antavious Lane intercepted Holton Ahlers’ pass on the first play of the ensuing ECU drive and took it 33 yards to the house for his first career defensive touchdown to give Georgia State their largest lead of the day, 42-16, with 13:12 to go.
ECU did not go down without a fight, finding innovative ways to score despite their offensive struggles. After another Pirate drive stalled out just outside the red zone, wide receiver Tyler Snead took a fake field goal run 31 yards for ECU’s first touchdown since the opening play. After the following Georgia State drive halted just shy of midfield, Snead’s position-mate Blake Proehl blocked Michael Hayes’ punt and returned it for a touchdown to make it a two-score game, 42-29, with 8:07 remaining, and the game was on. A missed 44-yard field goal from Georgia State kicker Noel Ruiz on the next drive for Georgia State did not settle fans’ nerves, but the defense got a stop after Proehl couldn’t haul in Ahlers’ 4th-and-9 heave and Destin Coates well and truly put the game on ice with a 5-yard touchdown run with 23 seconds to go.
Georgia State is off this upcoming Saturday before traveling to Jonesboro to face the Arkansas State Red Wolves on Thursday, October 15. The game kicks off at 7:30pm EDT and can be seen on ESPN.