Georgia State’s history with Appalachian State is one they would quickly like to forget – five games, zero wins, zero close games. Making matters worse for the Panthers this week, senior quarterback and team leader Dan Ellington wasn’t supposed to play in this game – and possibly for the rest of the year – and the Panther offense was going to be the Quad Brown show as they welcomed the #25-ranked Mountaineers to Atlanta. But this one wasn’t just about pride and Ellington wasn’t going to let his knee injury sideline him. A win would mean the Panthers would continue to control their own destiny in the Sun Belt East division. Was this the year, against all odds, Georgia State would finally draw blood against this divisional rival? This is Upon Further Review.
If football games were won in the first quarter, the Georgia State Panthers would be 7-3. After the teams traded drives with nothing doing, the Panthers used some Tra Barnett runs and a Devin Gentry swing pass to take an early lead 7-0. The Mountaineers would tie the game on a drive that included a few third down conversions and a ‘sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good’ catch by wide receiver Corey Sutton. By this point, the Mountaineers started to key in on the Panthers offense. The defensive pass rush started getting home as well and Dan took a few hits but kept popping back up. The Panthers defense was also playing extremely well. They forced App State QB Zac Thomas into many questionable throws and didn’t allow the ground game to get much traction either.
The Panthers found paydirt in the form of explosive plays – a 67-yard Destin Coates touchdown run and a 34-yard Chris Bacon pick-six – to push their lead to 21-7. At this point, it seemed the magical ride would continue. Play three more quarters of quality football and the season-long task was still well within reach. But after Chris Bacon crossed the endzone with 1:38 left in the first quarter, the Panthers offense run just 17 plays the rest of the half for a grand total of 33 yards. In that time, App State not only erased the 14-point deficit, they took a 14-point lead of their own into the break – 35-21.
Where it went wrong for the Panthers was allowing the big play on defense and an offense that couldn’t gain yards at all. An injured Dan Ellington was never a threat on the ground and the Mountaineer front knew it. After getting gashed in the ground game early on, the App State defense started keying on the running backs and thusly eliminated the only effective part of the Georgia State offense on the night. Dan also struggled to put enough zip on his throws all night, likely a result of his injury. The Panther offense relies heavily on timing routes in the passing game and balls were taking longer than normal to reach receivers. Those extra few seconds gave App State cornerbacks just enough time to reach in and tip pass after pass. The most consequential play of the night for the Mountaineers defense – the pick-six by Shaun Jolly to give them their first lead at 28-21 – was off of a comeback route that got jumped.
The Panthers had six drives in the second half, and only one of them went longer than 30 yards.
The unfortunate byproduct of an offense going nowhere is asking a defense to stay on the field for a long time. The final numbers weren’t pretty, but it’s also OK to cut the defense some slack given they were asked to defend for 36 minutes against an offense who came in averaging north of 40 points a game. App State was only 5/15 on third down conversions and still scored 49 points on offense. That says a lot about how tired the defense was. It got off the field plenty but it allowed big play after big play to get there. By the fourth quarter, true freshman Quad Brown had relieved Ellington of his duties, and all hopes of the 2019 conference title coming to Atlanta had left the building.
The game got out of hand – and with it, the Panthers’ main goal for the 2019 season. It’s easy to get caught up in all the little things that led to this big defeat and it’s easy to forget – as Coach Elliott was quick to point out in his postgame remarks – just how incredible it is that Dan Ellington played a snap in this game, let alone as many as he did. Georgia State lost on the night but Dan Ellington won. He won because even though the game didn’t go the way he wanted it to, he got to play it on his terms. He won because he fought back against impossible odds to go into battle with his teammates. He won because he proved the human spirit is unbreakable even where the human body is broken – showing a level of heart and desire to which we all can aspire.
2019 True Freshman Tracker
Games played (10): ILB Jordan Veneziale, LS Seth Glausier
Games played (5): WR Cadarrius Thompson
Games played (4): QB Cornelious Brown
Games played (2): DB Bryquice Brown, WR Jamari Thrash, S Antavious Lane, DL Thomas Gore, LB Marcus Anderson, OL Luis Cristobal