Panthers Squander Early Lead, Fall to #25 App State 56-27
Georgia State (6-4, 3-3 in Sun Belt) couldn’t ride the momentum of a fast start, falling flat on offense and falling heavily in a key Sun Belt East battle 56-27 with Appalachian State (9-1, 5-1 in Sun Belt). In a surprise move, Dan Ellington played through a knee injury to lead the Panthers but struggled, finishing 12-of-27 with 88 passing yards and two interceptions and offering no impact in the rushing game. Destin Coates led the Panthers on the ground with 97 yards and one TD. QB Zac Thomas overcame a shaky start for the Mountaineers to have a good night, completing 19-of-31 for 256 yards and five total touchdowns.
The Panthers struck first, with Ellington finding WR Devin Gentry on the 4-yard TD pass at the end of a nine-play drive. App State answered through what would be a familiar combination all night – QB Zac Thomas to WR Corey Sutton for a 12-yard score. The teams traded punts and the game was for the taking. Georgia State heeded the call and put their stamp on the game – taking the lead back through their longest play of the year to date, a 67-yard run by RB Destin Coates, and adding to it with an INT return for a touchdown by sophomore safety Chris Bacon. Georgia State’s first defensive score of 2019 made it 21-7 and put all the momentum squarely in the Panthers’ corner.
App State, though, fought back – scoring in five plays right before the 1st quarter break to cut the deficit to one score. The Panthers’ running game which exploded for 153 yards in the 1st quarter netted -1 yards on the ground in the 2nd, with App starting to win in the trenches, and the offense ground to a halt. Those two costly interceptions by Ellington late in the half – both by CB Shaun Jolly, one of them returned for a touchdown – gave the Mountaineers a 35-21 halftime lead. Coach Elliott highlighted this stretch of the game as the turning point, saying, “For 26 minutes of that first half, I thought it was a great contest.”
The Panthers’ offensive woes carried into the second half, not taking advantage of two straight Mountaineer three-and-outs by having two three-and-outs of their own. The dam on defense broke for Georgia State and the high-powered Appalachian State offense took control of the game, rattling off three straight touchdowns to put the game well out of reach.
Even in defeat, Coach Elliott heaped praise on Ellington for all he did to get ready to play in this game, saying, “We all witnessed something tonight that was incredible.” He added: “He didn’t do it for himself. He did it for those guys in his locker room.” Dan echoed that point by saying his goal was to bring Georgia State “its first Sun Belt championship” and that “[i]t sucks I couldn’t get it done for the school.”
Georgia State is back in action at home next Saturday, when they host the Jaguars of South Alabama on Senior Day. Kickoff at Georgia State Stadium is at 2pm EST.