It started off with the longest kickoff return of the season and it ended with a thud – a true statement about Georgia State’s opening drive against Coastal Carolina, which netted 0 points after Noel Ruiz’s 47-yard field goal struck the right upright, and about the entire 51-0 drubbing that took place at Center Parc Stadium on Saturday. Terrance Dixon’s 31-yard return was, in many ways, the high point of the afternoon for the Panthers. It set them up in decent field position to start a game where everything would have to click in order to take down a Chanticleers team that came in ranked and rolling – a team who regained the services of their young stud quarterback, redshirt freshman Grayson McCall. But instead, after zooming down the field, the momentum was halted, Ruiz’s field goal couldn’t quite hook in enough and the rout was soon on. What happened? This is Upon Further Review.
As the final score and total yards discrepancy (530-106 in favor of Coastal Carolina) perhaps makes clear, there wasn’t any one thing that conspired to doom Georgia State to their largest ever home loss, but there was a theme – sloppy play. After the missed field goal, Coastal wasted no time putting together a drive of their own, going from their own 30 to Georgia State’s 38-yard-line in two plays. Even still, the Panther defense held its ground and forced a 4th-and-1. But at this point, the mistakes mounted. A 29-yard Shermari Jones touchdown run on the 4th down attempt was called back by a holding penalty, moving the Chants back to the 35-yard-line and taking the points off the board. Coastal’s field goal unit came on to try a 52-yard attempt, but they’d never have to snap it as chaos unfolded on the Georgia State sideline. Some of the defense stayed on the field, some of the punt team ran on and Shawn Elliott had to burn a timeout to prevent a too-many-men-on-the-field penalty. After the timeout, Coastal Carolina head coach Jamey Chadwell changed his mind and went for it – and when McCall hit Jaivon Heiligh down the sideline for the score, the gamble that shouldn’t have been paid off and the game swung.
The most telling stat of the game for Georgia State is that Noel Ruiz’s missed field goal with 11:00 left in the 1st quarter was their last play in Coastal Carolina territory all game. How that could be possible revolves, again, around general sloppiness by the usually stellar Georgia State offense. Freshman QB Quad Brown has had his ups and downs as he learns on the job and Saturday’s outing was not a day to write home about. He missed on reads, he missed open receivers and his decision-making in general lacked in comparison to previous games. A lot of credit has to go to an active Coastal Carolina defense who were up to the task, and certainly Quad isn’t the sole reason for the offensive woes. The normally electric Georgia State rushing attack was held under 100 yards for the first time since Brad Glenn came on board as offensive coordinator. The offensive line that normally opens holes the size of lanes on the freeway couldn’t get their running backs the right of way all game and the Panthers were often mired in long down-and-distances as a result. A 1-for-10 3rd down conversion rate and just 18:56 time of possession conspired to make it a long day for the Georgia State defense, as did two consecutive costly turnovers in the middle of the game.
Down 14-0 in the 2nd quarter, the Panthers had been outmatched early but they were by no means out of the game. However, what was about to unfold put the game’s result beyond doubt. With 11:39 to go in the half, the Panthers were backed up inside their own 10 because of the first of an eventual two dropped fair catches on kickoffs – another marker of how the game was going. Destin Coates started off the drive with a 12-yard run up the gut, one of the few chunk plays on the day for the offense. But what could have been the first signs of a dormant Georgia State offense quickly flamed out when Sam Pinckney fumbled on the second play of the drive, giving Coastal primo field position at the GSU 26. They scored two plays later and the Chants’ lead ballooned up to three scores. Five plays into the following drive, Quad airmailed Matlin Marshall after being hit as he threw and Silas Kelly brought in an interception for Coastal just shy of midfield. McCall threw his second touchdown of the half to make it 27-0 and for the second week running, Georgia State had committed turnovers on back-to-back drives in the 2nd quarter. In last week’s win over Troy, though, the turnovers became an inflection point after which the Panthers rattled off 23 unanswered points. This week, the team wilted under the Chanticleer onslaught.
The game went on after the break, but the story remained the same and the Panthers succumbed in their first home shutout in program history. The greatest tragedy is that this really was set up to be a great game on paper – two high-flying freshman QBs, the top two offenses in the conference. Indeed, the line in Vegas stayed within 4 points either way all week. This wasn’t an outcome anyone aside from those wearing the brightest shade of teal-tinted glasses would have predicted. But the fact is, Georgia State got Coastal’s best shot and they couldn’t come close to matching it in any phase of the game. The only silver lining here is that it counts the same as the Panthers’ 3-point loss to Louisiana when all’s said and done. This is just one game on the 2020 schedule and the Panthers have four more to make their season what they want it to be. But this is the type of loss that can haunt a team and creep into their psyche for weeks to come. A seemingly favorable matchup with winless ULM is on the horizon, but the Warhawks are the last of Georgia State’s worries. They’ve got to get their house in order or risk seeing their season spiral as fast as you can say “51-0.”
2020 True Freshman Tracker
Games played (5) – RB Marcus Carroll
Games played (4) – LB Terrell Gordon
Games played (2) – LB Justin Abraham, TE Ahmon Green
Games played (1) – LS Collin Westfelt, DB Jalen Tate, OL Mason Cook
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