Upon Further Review: Arkansas State
Junior RB Tucker Gregg had a breakout performance in Thursday’s loss to Arkansas State, putting up 142 yards on 14 carries. Photo: Georgia State Sports Communications
In case you were wondering what 1,192 total yards of offense, 111 points and four hours and 12 minutes of football looked like, Thursday night’s donnybrook between Georgia State and Arkansas State had you covered. At the end of a long night in Jonesboro, the home team prevailed 59-52 and the Panthers fell to 1-2 and 0-2 in the Sun Belt. It was a night for the offenses to revel in and a night for the defenses to forget, but what could be taken away from the game after the dust finally settled at Centennial Bank Stadium? This is Upon Further Review.
Having said all that about the explosive offense, that’s not how the night started off. Georgia State went three-and-out each of the first three drives, as QB Quad Brown struggled to connect on some key third-down passes early. The only saving grace for the Panthers was that except for a mishandled snap by Panthers punter Michael Hayes after the opening drive that yielded Arkansas State possession at the 5-yard line – and, after three plays, their first touchdown of the night – the Red Wolves offense also sputtered out of the gate. In the two drives following that opening score, Arkansas State stalled out and couldn’t add to their early lead. The excellent Georgia State offense that has been a constant under coordinator Brad Glenn did get going from the fourth drive and really never let up until the final whistle. But at this point, the Arkansas State lead mirrored the eventual 7-point margin they would win by. A lot of football was still to come in Arkansas, but for the team that lost by a single score in the end, three drives with nothing doing to start has to feel like a chance gone begging when even one of those drives ending in points would have meant a great deal to the final outcome.
The start of Georgia State’s offensive success came after a Ryan Hanson punt got downed at the 1 and the Panther offense was lining up in their own end zone and staring at 99 yards to go.
But on first down, left tackle Travis Glover crashed in and sealed off an opening up the middle for running back Tucker Gregg and Georgia State was literally and figuratively off to the races. 56 yards later, the Panthers were set up in Arkansas State territory for the first time and it wouldn’t be long for them to hit pay dirt.
Quad took a fourth-and-2 read option play around the corner and just kept running, eventually into the end zone for a 35-yard score – punctuated by a great effort to dive for the pylon – and Georgia State was on the board. That drive was the spark needed to light the offensive wick. The problem at that point was that the Arkansas State offense had also found their metaphorical tinderbox and the firefight was on.
The final result basically boiled down to two pairs of Red Wolves – WR duo Jonathan Adams and Dahu Green and QB tandem Logan Bonner and Layne Hatcher. No one in the Georgia State secondary could keep up with Adams and Green in coverage all night, as they ended up with 15 and 9 catches respectively while combining for 349 receiving yards and 4 touchdowns. And when they had a clean pocket, Bonner and Hatcher had no trouble finding the open man on any given snap, combining for 7 of the program-high 8 passing touchdowns allowed by Georgia State. The defense did a good job earlier in the game with getting to the two quarterbacks and disrupting their timing, a professed goal of head coach Shawn Elliott heading into this matchup. All 4 sacks they recorded were in the first half – and when Jordan Strachan forced a Bonner fumble deep in Panther territory and Blake Carroll took it all the way to the house, a potential 21-7 Arkansas State lead was suddenly a 14-14 stalemate. Even with the gashing gains through the air from Bonner and Hatcher – often to Adams and Green – the formula was to get stops on defense eventually and to create timely turnovers. However, that ended up as their only forced turnover of the night. And when the pressure dried up in the second half, so too did Georgia State’s chances of holding back the relentless Red Wolves.
The inquisition isn’t in yet for Georgia State. This was a tough road test and they were without key contributors RB Destin Coates and WR Cornelius McCoy, though Tucker Gregg and Sam Pinckney shined in their respective absences. Additionally, defensive coordinator Nate Fuqua was not able to coach the game in-person on Thursday. After two strong defensive performances, it’s not entirely clear why the wheels fell off so badly in Jonesboro. But the fact is the why doesn’t matter. What matters is that the #3 passing attack in the Sun Belt is on the docket next. Troy beckons on Saturday for the Panthers, and the Trojans coaching staff surely saw all the success Arkansas State had airing it out and will look to do the same. After a haunting mid-October performance, the Georgia State defense has to find some answers fast or the team’s lofty aspirations may be but a ghost before Halloween.
2020 True Freshman Tracker
Games played (3) – RB Marcus Carroll
Games played (2) – LB Terrell Gordon, LB Justin Abraham
Games played (1) – LS Collin Westfelt