The THERSday After – Arkansas State

For our Patrons this week, here is our in-depth look at what happened in Georgia State’s bowl-clinching 28-20 win over Arkansas State:

1st Quarter Observations

  • The offense obviously missed on some shots down the field to start the game, but on replay, it’s really not hard to see why they took them as opposed to going to the ground game we know Coach Elliott and Coach Glenn love to establish:

Here’s the alignment pre-snap. There are eight men in the box for Arkansas State and just the one cornerback lined up in press man on Ja’Cyais Credle at the bottom of the picture. Credle has that entire side of the field to himself and beats his man immediately off the line and Darren Grainger makes a quick throw downfield. Credle high-points the ball really well but can’t hold on when he hits the ground. A missed opportunity for a 35+ yard gain on the first play from scrimmage. And a throw that’s able to lead him a bit more is probably a 75-yard touchdown. The Red Wolves kept showing these looks and unfortunately Georgia State missed on too many of the chances.

  • Starting a theme of just…things being off, Darren Grainger just lost the ball in the backfield on this fumble. Looks like the ball just caught on the body of Tucker Gregg a tiny bit and he just dropped it. Goes without saying that you can’t have turnovers like that, but it also is worth mentioning silly turnovers (or any turnovers at all since the Texas State game) haven’t been that much of an issue since Darren won the starting job, so maybe you can just chalk it up to the weirdness of this game.
  • It’s been a while since the defense has had to fend with a short field like that, but even after giving up a couple 1st downs, they held the line and kept Arkansas State out of the end zone. Like the Texas State game, things might have felt different if it’s 7-0 instead of 3-0.
  • If you felt like the offensive slugginess in the 1st quarter was familiar, you weren’t wrong. The Panthers have been outscored 71-44 in the opening frame this season – that 44 points scored is the least in any of the four quarters. Hard to pinpoint any one reason why, but this just isn’t an offense that fires on all cylinders out of the gates. Before their TD drive late in the quarter, the drives consisted of:
    • 4 plays, 21 yards, ends in turnover
    • 3 plays, 5 yards, ends in punt
    • 3 plays, -2 yards, ends in punt
  • The defense did their job and forced three-and-outs of their own, but it’s something that Georgia State is going to have to look at fixing in the final two games in 2021 or, more realistically, something that’s got to be a point of emphasis to fix in 2022.
  • Arkansas State’s QB Layne Hatcher had absolutely no cares in the world about throwing into single coverage, even when the receiver was pretty well covered. It didn’t cost him here in the 1st, but – ahem – we’ll return to this fact later.
  • There’s no two ways about it, Thomas Gore had an outstanding game. Showed up first in a big way by shedding a blocker and bringing Hatcher down short of the line to gain on a 3rd-and-1 in the 1st quarter.
  • Nothing really changed with Arkansas State’s alignment, re: stacking the box, on the Georgia State touchdown drive, the Panthers just decided to run into loaded boxes anyway and they just mashed in the blocking.
  • Maybe one slight adjustment Georgia State made on the drive, though, was looking to get the outside runs established. Arkansas State was bearing down in the trenches early on. Getting a Jamyest Williams outside zone for 20 yards and running an option pitch for Terrance Dixon for 15 and Darren Grainger keeping it for a 18-yard run started opening up the inside more for Williams and Tucker Gregg.
  • Exit Hatcher, pursued by a Thomas Gore. He and Tylon Dunlap run a stunt on 3rd-and-5, and he comes at the QB with a head of steam, completely unguarded.

2nd Quarter Observations

  • This second TD drive was The Usual Stuff for Georgia State, namely lots and lots of run plays. Arkansas State was still loading up against the run, but all pretense was gone from the Panthers and they were running it into some heavy box counts…and having success with it!
  • Really felt like in the moment, and on the rewatch, that if Georgia State got one more stop after going up 14-3, they were set to really grab a stranglehold on the game…and then the 3rd-and-16 play came for Arkansas State.
  • You got to credit Butch Jones and co for dialing up a perfect playcall against this blitz, a slip screen to Lincoln Pare, and then when Seydou Traore set a block on Antavious Lane about at the line to gain for the first down, Pare had nothing but space and a host of downfield blockers. Touchdown, Red Wolves, and a play that gave them life in the game.
  • Hi again, Thomas Gore! Two sacks in two quarters while coming back from a 102 fever (confirmed by him in postgame) is something seriously impressive.
  • Panthers catch a pretty major break that Kivon Bennett immediately went to celebrate after getting a drive-ending sack, because the ball popped out and he’d have had the easiest scoop-and-score he may ever score if he was locked on the end of the play. Butch Jones was none too pleased and Georgia State avoided that particular catastrophe (for now).
  • Arkansas State got far and away their best drive of the day going at the end of the first half. It was the drive where taking it 10 yards at a time worked better than at any other point.
  • Antavious Lane had his second really well-played pass breakup of the half here. This time, he jarred it loose from Corey Rucker in the end zone to prevent a touchdown. 
  • Ta’Vailance Hunt really should have had a touchdown on this 2nd down play, but all these bobbles. Instead of just laughing at the absurdity of this weird and unique play, and this sport, I’ll say Bryquice Brown got beat by a half-step but still got his hand in the cookie jar to make Hunt start losing control of the football.
  • Dontae Wilson made one of the biggest plays of the game here with a 3rd down sack that brought out the kicking team and preserved a 14-13 Georgia State lead at the half. The sack also gave him 11 for his career, moving him within 1 of teammate Hardrick Willis’s program record.

3rd Quarter Observations

  • Going to bring up another point in the vein of “If it feels like this is happening, it is,” but this is a better one for Georgia State than their scoring record in the 1st quarter. If it feels like Georgia State’s defense has been stout out of the locker room, it has been. The Panthers have now had six games where the opposition received to start the 3rd quarter and scored no points on that drive. Army, Charlotte, Auburn, Appalachian State and now Arkansas State were all forced to punt while UNC missed a field goal. 
  • I talked in last week’s Observations about the trend of Georgia State choosing to defer rather than receive when they won the coin toss, and that’s still the smart play, but Arkansas State won this toss so you didn’t have a choice. So it’s nice to still be able to trust your defense to come up with the stops and not let the opponent win the “middle eight” (The final four minutes of the 2nd quarter and the first four of the 3rd).
  • Panthers finally connect on one of those deep shots they’d been trying all game on their second offensive play of the 3rd quarter, Darren Grainger to Jamari Thrash for 38 yards.
  • But the drive was ruined when a holding penalty wiped out what would have been a loooong gain to Terrance Dixon. Team never recovered from being in a 1st-and-20 hole, and instead of a 1st-and-goal at the A-State 10, it was punt time and another wasted chance.
  • Here’s the time to mention Hatcher’s proclivity to try and force the ball into tight coverage again. It didn’t cost him in the first half, but knocking on the door of the red zone, he underthrew Jeff Foreman and Bryquice Brown was perfectly positioned to snag an interception at the 1-yard-line and keep the Georgia State lead intact.
  • Now, the Georgia State defense played some of their best ball in this game, but if Arkansas State had taken the lead on that drive, they’d have had no one to blame but themselves with two penalties that gave the Red Wolves a fresh set of downs. 
  • I understand the old-school offensive line “We’re all not going to move if we think we drew someone offsides” thing that Georgia State does, I get it. And the Panthers OL has never done it and had it not be the case that a guy was off. But doing it right backed up against your own goal line? That’s trust in the officials right there.
  • Jamari Thrash had a great quarter, with 3 catches for 103 yards. #2 had taken a slightly smaller profile on the Panthers’ three-game road trip, but he and Darren Grainger really had a connection working when Darren had just won the job, so it’ll only be better for the team if he gets going again.
  • Simply put, missing a 47-yard field goal isn’t on the kicker. 47 is a makeable distance for the reliable right boot of Noel Ruiz, but you can’t stall out there and expect the points. 
  • Arkansas State had another drive working after Noel Ruiz’s missed field goal but one play after crossing midfield, Layne Hatcher just had a pass sail on him and it floated right to Antavious Lane, who added to his stellar second half of the season with yet another INT. Credit to (who else?) Thomas Gore for the QB hurry that forced the errant throw.
  • This was Lane’s team-leading third interception and it ties him with Chandon Sullivan and Qua White for the most in school history with 7 career INTs. 
  • So, after the offense squandered what could have easily been two scoring drives, the defense didn’t falter and they got two key takeaways when it mattered. Something about defending plus territory for these guys.
  • This interception for Arkansas State… I think the defender was out of bounds before he controlled it, but it was really bang-bang. My strong, strong opinion was that they needed to at least go to replay review and give it an extended second look. Letting the call stand without even double-checking if Sami Johnson ever had control in bounds seems pretty ludicrous.
  • And on the other side of things, how incredibly unlucky for Sam Pinckney. Made a heck of a catch and it would have counted as such if he doesn’t land straight on top of the DB.
  • True to their form, though, the Georgia State defense forced a three-and-out after the play ruled an interception and Arkansas State couldn’t capitalize on any momentum it gave them.
  • I don’t have any smart words here, it’s just really fun seeing Jamyest Williams take off in the open field.

4th Quarter Observations

  • The broadcast kinda botched this Jam TD, but it was one of those that you could say live, “If they give it to Jam on a handoff to the right side, he’s going to make it untouched.” And sure enough! Jamari Thrash was lined up in the slot and ran across the middle on a drag route, and when his defender went with him, there was absolutely nobody on that side of the field.
  • Credit to the Georgia State defense – they got burned bad on a screen pass in the 2nd quarter and weren’t going to let it happen again. Arkansas State tried multiple screens in this quarter and not one of them was going anywhere. Panthers weren’t gonna be fooled again.
  • Just going to let this speak for itself:
  • A sequence of TD drive > forced three-and-out > TD drive for Georgia State was exactly how it played out when they took their double-digit lead in the first half. And this time Arkansas State was going to have 12:24 to score more than they had in the rest of the game preceding that point.
  • The sack yardage was what tipped the rushing numbers all the way to -3 for Arkansas State – the least rushing yards Georgia State has ever given up in a single game – but the run defense itself was still very impressive. Outside of one 16-yard run in the 3rd quarter, absolutely nothing doing on the inside or when Arkansas State tried to kick it outside. Not accounting for the sacks, they had 37 yards on 20 carries. Absolutely dominant.
  • Another trip into Georgia State territory, another time where the Panthers made the plays they needed to on defense. Enter Jordan Veneziale and the defense’s sixth sack of the game. That’s not a program record, but it’s a new season high.
  • Another 4th down stop gives Georgia State the ball at the A-State 18. They’re up 28-13 with under 5 to play. Any points further clinch the win, whether it’s a field goal or a touchdown. Basically the only thing that can’t happen is allowing a defensive touchdown…so, yeah, this Roger Carter fumble and Kivon Bennett scoop-and-score (He got one after all) was the absolute worst-case scenario. 
  • Roger is one of the most sure-handed guys on the team and it’s a play Georgia State runs and gets 6-7 yards minimum most times they run it. A real anomaly in a game full of those, but sums up the offense’s day of just making too many key errors.
  • Still, they went right back out there after the horrible, no good, very bad play and proceeded to pound the rock – and Arkansas State’s chances of a comeback- into oblivion. 3rd-and-7? No problem, Tucker’s got 8. 
  • This is the type of game you have to learn from so you can tidy up your mistakes, but that’s so much better to do after a win that clinches your third straight bowl game.

Before and After

And finally, here’s a look at how Georgia State’s stats stacked up in the Sun Belt before and after the Arkansas State win:

  • Scoring offense: 25.0 (7th in Sun Belt) > 25.3 (T-5th)
  • Rushing offense: 213.40 (2nd) >  219.64 (2nd) – also #14 in FBS
  • Passing offense: 160.4 (9th) > 159.6 (9th)
  • Total offense: 373.8 (6th) > 379.3 (5th)
  • Scoring defense: 30.2 (6th) > 29.3 (6th)
  • Total defense: 425.2 (7th) > 411.1 (6th)
  • Rushing defense: 170.20 (8th) > 154.45 (6th)
  • Passing defense: 255.0 (7th) > 256.6 (8th)
  • 3rd down conversion rate: 41.91% (2nd) > 42.67 (2nd)
  • Opponents’ 3rd down conversion rate: 46.36% (9th) > 44.64% (9th)
  • Sacks: 23 (7th) > 29 (3rd)
  • Sacks allowed: 19 (4th) > 22 (4th)
%d bloggers like this: