Riding the high of two straight wins, Georgia State came home to face the triple option test of the Army Black Knights to try and earn a winning record in out-of-conference play for the first time at the FBS level and move to one win away from bowl eligibility in the process. The result – as expected – was a fast-moving, back-and-forth slugfest, with the Panthers landing the final blow. How did Georgia State win out in the end? This is Upon Further Review.
After all the success in the run game the past two weeks, Georgia State’s offensive performance hinged on the passing attack this game. From the opening drive, Georgia State had favorable matchups on the perimeter and QB Dan Ellington found and exploited them. Dan hit Sam Pinckney, who is continuing to show out week after week, for two first-half touchdowns. Army had seen enough and quickly put the kibosh on that, putting their best cornerback, Elijah Riley, on Pinckney for the rest of the game. Army scored on the first of their extended scoring drives (nine plays, 75 yards, 5:29 off the clock) in between the Pinckney touchdowns and added their second (12 plays, 75 yards, 6:26) just before halftime to make it 14-14 going into the half.
Army got the ball to begin the second half and proceeded to put together another long scoring drive (12 plays, 75 yards, 6:43) to take their first lead at 21-14. Georgia State’s offense had had success in the first half in spite of going 1-for-4 on 3rd downs and rushing for just 57 yards. Had this trend continued for the final 30 minutes, the end result may have been different. But the Panthers proceeded to go 5-for-6 on 3rd downs and 1-for-1 on 4th down (a gutsy decision to go for it on their own 28) in the second half and, as a result, put together two long scoring drives of their own in the second half to take the lead at 28-21.
Army got the ball back with 7:41 left and – true to form – put together yet another long drive. Coach Jeff Monken clearly had no intention of giving Ellington and company much time if the Black Knights were able to level the score. Army milked the clock all the way down to under two minutes, converting on multiple 4th downs. One last time, the game was in the balance – exactly one minute left, 4th-and-4 Army on the Georgia State 28. QB Kelvin Hopkins went for the home run play to the end zone but Panther CB Quavian White read the pass and broke off his coverage to bring in the game-clinching interception.
There were questions coming into this game about how well Army could control the clock, as has been their bread-and-butter under Coach Monken. Army had averaged just under 35 minutes possession and 38 and a half minutes possession in their double-digit win campaigns in 2017 and ‘18 respectively – they entered Saturday’s contest averaging a hair over 30 minutes. This game largely went the way Army wanted it to – long, drawn-out drives, limited possessions and a 38:08 time of possession for Army. Yet, in the end, the formula of controlling the clock and holding the ball didn’t net the Black Knights the win they wanted. Simply put, Georgia State had a more efficient offensive game and that was the difference.
Army had almost two-thirds of the time of possession but were outgained by Georgia State 379-343. The Panther defense was largely able to control the triple option by taking away the perimeter. Army was able to create a couple big runs up the middle but couldn’t really get anything going to the outside, thanks in large part to the outside linebackers and defensive backs of Georgia State staying at home and playing their assignments. And even despite the marginal big-play success Army had up the middle, the Panthers still stood tall up front for much of the game. Nose guard Dontae Wilson had a great day stuffing the dive, finishing with 10 tackles, and linebacker Trajan Stephens-McQueen shined with a school-record 20 tackles. That was especially important after the injury to senior captain/team leader Ed Curney in the first half. Army had 278 yards on the ground but the GSU defense made them work for it, forcing 15 conversion attempts on 3rd down and an astounding eight on 4th down by the Black Knights.
Georgia State was efficient in possession throughout and clinical on both sides of the ball when it counted. A team that has, at times, struggled to close games out had no such problems this week. Georgia State had two real possessions in the entire second half – discounting the one at the end of the game – and scored 14 points on those two drives. Army held the ball for a total of 10 minutes, 32 seconds on their final two drives and came away with a grand total of 0 points for their efforts. That, in essence, was the ballgame. This game was an extreme example of making your possessions count late in the game. If Georgia State is able to replicate that 4th quarter precision the rest of the way, the wins will keep coming.
2019 True Freshman Tracker
Games played (7): ILB Jordan Veneziale, LS Seth Glausier
Games played (4): WR Cadarrius Thompson
Games played (2): QB Cornelious Brown, DB Bryquice Brown, WR Jamari Thrash
Games played (1): OL Luis Cristobal