The THERSday After – Coastal Carolina

For our Patrons this week, here is our in-depth look at what happened in Georgia State’s big 42-40 win over #21/22 Coastal Carolina:

Javon Dennis celebrates during Georgia State’s victory over Georgia Southern. He had two sacks during Saturday’s win in Conway. Photo: Jordan Crawford for

1st Quarter Observations

  • Teams usually script their first 10-15 plays on offense, and assuming that was the case for Coastal Carolina, it was a good script. They got the ball into the playmakers’ hands on offense – Shermari Jones, Isaiah Likely and the big 39-yard shot to Jaivon Heiligh. Though the missed tackle on Jones turned what would have been a modest gain into 21 yards, so that part was on Georgia State.
  • Georgia State’s starting drive was also pretty good, with the usual healthy doses of inside runs and WR screens on the perimeter. They came up empty when execution let them down. When this team runs on a 3rd-and-3 and a 4th-and-1, you expect them to pick up the conversion, but Coastal won in the trenches on both plays here and forced the turnover on downs.
  • The defensive line was performing well early on. Stuffing the inside run plays well and they were getting pressure on Bryce Carpenter all game. Javon Denis got a sack on the first play from scrimmage and Hardrick Willis laid Carpenter out on 3rd-and-9 the next drive, forcing him to throw an absolute duck that nearly became a Qua White INT.
  • I wonder how much the screen game in the first drive for State was just to get Darren Grainger into a rhythm, because on the second drive and beyond, he started unloading downfield. First play? 20-yard dart to Ja’Cyais Credle. Two plays later? 22-yard catch for Roger Carter.
  • And speaking of Roger Carter, this catch in the 1st quarter moved him past Keith Rucker (2013-16) to become the Georgia State career leader in both receptions and receiving yards for a tight end.
  • He only ended up with 2 catches for 7 yards (one of which was on this first TD drive), but it was good to see Cornelius McCoy out there and looking like his old self. He was probably on a snap count, still working back from that nagging hamstring injury, but we saw this with Sam Pinckney and he’s nearly all the way back himself. It will be a boon in the late season for Darren to have both those guys fully back.
  • I don’t care what the numbers say, I think goal line fades for Sam Pinckney are pretty high-percentage. A lot of the time, he’ll win in the air and bring it in, or – as in this case – he’ll draw a defensive pass interference to set the offense up with a 1st-and-goal at the 2. Easy pickings for Tucker the Trucker.
  • This 75-yard Braydon Bennett touchdown was…unfortunate. The inside linebackers were both slow to the perimeter, Bryce Carpenter pitched at the right times and the safeties in the middle of the field took too shallow of angles and Bennett was off to the races. Bad breakdown in a way that usually doesn’t happen to this defense. Very few teams have been able to win on the perimeter running the ball against Georgia State, but Coastal had success throughout.
  • Again, can’t overstate the impact of having Sam Pinckney back at it 100%. He was out running all type of routes and Georgia State really started picking apart the Chants’ secondary.
  • Example 1 of going against tendency to great success – 1st-and-10 at the CCU37, the Coastal defense sees 3 WRs out wide in a trips formation and sell out on the WR screen Brad Glenn likes to call. Except Terrance Dixon goes on a wheel route out of the formation instead and is wide open for a 28-yard catch at the 9. More to come.
  • Georgia State really didn’t have the usual success they do pounding it inside whenever they wanted to. The strength of this Coastal defense is its defensive line and it showed. This made the Panthers go to a pass play on 3rd-and-goal from the 3, which is against type, but Darren Grainger rolled to his left and threw on time to an open Aubry Payne for the game-tying score. That TD gives Aubry double digits in his career. His 10 receiving touchdowns leaves him only 2 behind Roger Carter’s program-leading 12 for a TE, so the battle goes on between them for that spot in the record books.
  • Really not sure what happened between Carpenter and Heiligh on this interception, but Qua White was the beneficiary, as he read Carpenter’s eyes the whole way and sat ready for the pick. Great return all the way down to the 1 as well, to all but wrap up a crazy 1st quarter. That INT moves Qua to a tie with Chandon Sullivan for the most career interceptions in a Georgia State uniform, with 7.

2nd Quarter Observations

  • Even as I complimented the Coastal defensive front earlier, when Georgia State lines up with a single RB and Aubry Payne or Roger Carter motion in as an H-back, it’s just really hard to stop from short distances. The defense knows what’s coming and it doesn’t matter, and here a 1-yard Tucker Gregg touchdown run gives the Panthers a 21-14 lead.
  • The perils of following on TV and not in-person – we’ll never know what that 3-yard TFL for Jacorey Crawford looked like because the broadcast bugged out on that play. Can only assume it was incredible.
  • Good stop for the Georgia State defense with a 7-point lead, but equally a good punt by Coastal’s Charles Ouverson reversed the field position battle and the Panthers offense started at the 3. And then…
  • Look, this safety just was a mess all-around. Passing out of your end zone there is a risk, but it’s a risk most OCs are going to take. Even looking for what appeared to be a shot play is an OK call, but Darren needed a checkdown he could dump off to and there was nothing there. Also, the protection cannot collapse like that if you’re going to pass in that situation. And it’s particularly problematic given it’s a seven-man protection. So…yeah. From playcall to on-field execution, there was a swing and a miss and it cost Georgia State two points and possession.
  • But to the defense’s credit, they came up with a stop after the safety kickoff. This is the second safety the offense has given up in 2021 (the first was against Charlotte) and the second time the defense has held the opposing team scoreless on the resulting drive. 
  • And when you stunt a momentum swing, good things happen. Georgia State gets the ball back and picks up two big 3rd downs through the air and moves into Chanticleers territory. Jamyest Williams takes an inside handoff and runs into wide open spaces for a 36-yard TD and that’s a double-digit lead for the Panthers.
  • This feels like a good time to mention a pretty major philosophical change that’s gone on for Coach Elliott. It’s long been his MO to choose to receive to start the game when Georgia State wins the toss, which in turn has given the opposing team the ball out of the locker room. From the ULM game this year and onwards, it’s flipped and Georgia State defers with every coin toss win. Sure, Coastal scored on their opening possession of this game and (spoiler alert) Georgia State wouldn’t score on their first drive of the 3rd quarter, but football is about sequencing. 
  • The Chants scored right before the half to make it 28-23 at the break but didn’t get the ball right out of the break to try and immediately take the lead back because of the coin toss decision. Here, it didn’t immediately pay off, but the theory is good and we are in favor of the swap. Because who knows what Coastal does if they do get the ball to start the 3rd quarter? Against ULM, Georgia State piggybacked touchdowns on either side of the break to turn a 7-point lead into a 21-point one and grabbed control. Following through on this strategy is going to lead to more of those situations than if you’re constantly kicking to the opponent at the start of the 3rd.

3rd Quarter Observations

  • I got ahead of myself with that last point, but I’ll bring it up again here – no, Georgia State didn’t score on their first drive of the second half. They didn’t get a 1st down, even. Nor did they do either of those things all quarter. Not sure there’s any one reason for this lull on offense. As with anything, it’s a combination of factors. But if you had to single out one area that was lacking, it was just execution. Coastal was making plays against the run, getting home and sacking the quarterback and batting balls at the line, just beating Georgia State back all quarter.
  • The three-and-out to start the half followed by a Coastal drive deep into Georgia State territory made the game feel like it was about to snowball, a la how Louisiana took a 14-10 lead early in the 4th quarter last Thursday night. But then, as they’ve shown an innate ability to do over this past month, the defense came up with a big stop inside the red zone and preserved the lead when Coastal Carolina had to settle for a field goal.
  • On that drive, in particular, the final sequence showed the tenacity the defense has been playing with where it really counts. 
    • On 1st-and-goal at the 1 after a Georgia State personal foul penalty, a Shermari Jones rush for a loss of 2 yards. Blake Carroll credited with the TFL
    • On 2nd-and-goal at the 3, Braydon Bennett is brought down for a 3-yard loss by Jontrey Hunter.
    • And on 3rd-and-goal, safety Chris Moore breaks up a pass in the flat intended for Isaiah Likely. The pass here would have only gained 3 or 4 yards depending on the spot, but a 4th-and-goal from the 3 or 4-yard-line feels like much riper territory to go for it instead of taking the points on the field goal. And so, literally backed up as far as they could be, the Panthers defense made the plays they had to make.
  • Again, on Georgia State’s second possession of the quarter, the plays just weren’t there. Holes in the ground game we’ve been accustomed to seeing were being clogged up. Much like the 3rd-and-3/4th-and-1 failure in the 1st quarter, on a 3rd-and-4 run, you expect to see Georgia State convert the hard yards. But not this time, as Jam Williams comes up 2 yards short.
  • The defense wouldn’t hold the Coastal offense out of the end zone forever in this half, but a three-and-out here kept the minutes ticking down and kept the pressure on Coastal for more time.
  • An excellent diagnosis by Jontrey Hunter completely took away an intended WR reverse on the first play of that drive and Bryce Carpenter just had to fall on the ball for a loss of 1. He also got the stop on Shermari Jones on 3rd-and-4 on this drive to bring out the punt team. #1 had a good game and there was more to come in that respect.

4th Quarter Observations

  • Georgia State dodged a special teams bullet for the second week running when a 56-yard Jaivon Heiligh return to the GSU 21 was wiped out by an illegal block in the back penalty. This comes after an Eric Garror punt return TD last Thursday was also called back on a flag on the return team. The penalty surely helped in the long return, but it wasn’t the only thing that led to a 56-yard gain and the Panthers are playing with fire the more the mistakes in punt coverage happen.
  • Something that plagued Georgia State’s defense on both the FG drive in the 3rd quarter and Coastal’s go-ahead touchdown drive was Bryce Carpenter’s running ability. He kept pulling it on designed runs and running into lots of space over the middle of the field.
  • I think part of the issue is that accounting for Carpenter with a spy might have risked losing coverage on Isaiah Likely, who’s one of the best weapons over the middle in the nation, but a suitable solution never really happened and the QB ended up converting 5 3rd downs on his legs.
  • A run play on 3rd-and-goal at the 8 tells me Chadwell was looking for a manageable 4th down and thinking of going for it, but Shermari Jones takes the decision away from him with a great cutback and a lunge into the end zone to give Coastal the lead back. 
  • The Georgia State offense needed to get anything going and so they returned to old standards on the first set of downs on the next drive – a WR screen to Sam Pinckney and two inside runs for Tucker Gregg to pick up their first 1st down of the half.
  • Then, after another quick pass to Pinckney for 5, came example 2 of going against tendency to great effect – Grainger fakes the screen out to Pinckney and Roger Carter runs a perfect stop-and-go to get behind the defender and make a 39-yard catch down to the CCU 16. It was the first chunk play of the half for the Panthers and it came at the exact time they needed it.
  • In retrospect, stressful as it may have been for Georgia State fans watching, being able to churn some clock once the Panthers got into the red zone ended up being a good thing. It took six plays to go 16 yards after the Carter catch, but they made it happen.
  • For the second time in the game, on 4th-and-goal from the 2, the playcall down by the goal line was a Darren Grainger rollout to his left. The open man this time was senior WR Terrance Dixon, who got his first touchdown since the Furman game in 2019.
  • Jamil Muhammad played the most snaps he has all season and he was in the backfield all afternoon. There was no bigger play that he – or anyone on the defense, for that matter – made than the strip-sack of Carpenter that Jontrey Hunter fell on at the Coastal 8-yard-line. He dominated his assignment from the snap and got home with a purpose to force the huge turnover.
  • Not a lot Georgia State could do to milk the clock with only 8 yards between them and the end zone, so when Tucker Gregg gets his third touchdown of the day, Coastal Carolina has a whole 2:36 to tie the game at 42.
  • Discouragingly easy touchdown drive for the Chants, but the touchdown catch by Isaiah Likely was defended as well as it could’ve been. Likely is just one of those guys.
  • Coastal immediately tried to get it to Likely again on the 2-point conversion but a smart defensive pass interference by Jaylon Jones didn’t give him a chance to grab the game-tying catch. The penalty did, however, give the Chants another attempt, this one from the 1.5-yard line.
  • Jamey Chadwell opted to run it up the middle with Shermari Jones on try #2 and I’m sure Coach Elliott wouldn’t have had it any other way. The ever-impressive sophomore nose guard Thomas Gore led the charge and wrapped Jones up short of the goal line and the first crisis was averted.
  • Panther fans had to wait with bated breath on the onside kick attempt, as it was a good one from Massimo Biscardi, but Ja’Cyais Credle ended up with it and the win was finally sealed.

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 Coastal Carolina win:

  • Scoring offense: 23.1 (7th of 10) > 25.0 (7th)
  • Rushing offense: 219.33 ypg (3rd) > 213.40 (2nd) – also 18th in FBS
  • Passing offense: 156.2 ypg (9th) > 160.4 (9th)
  • Total offense: 375.6 ypg (6th) > 373.8 (6th)
  • Scoring defense: 29.1 ppg (6th) > 30.2 (6th)
  • Total defense: 423.4 ppg (7th) > 425.2 (7th)
  • Rushing defense: 166.56 ypg (7th) > 170.20 (8th)
  • Passing defense: 256.9 ypg (7th) > 255.0 (7th)
  • 3rd down conversion rate: 40.91% (3rd) > 41.91% (2nd)
  • Opponents’ 3rd down conversion rate: 44.4% (8th) > 46.36% (9th)
  • Sacks: 19 (8th) > 23 (7th)
  • Sacks allowed: 18 (5th) > 19 (4th)
  • Turnover margin: 1 (6th) > 3 (T-4th)

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