After a record-breaking offensive explosion at home against Arkansas State, Georgia State took a road trip to Myrtle Beach for a big test against a stout Coastal Carolina defense that came into the game leading the Sun Belt in total defense. The Chanticleers had allowed just 289 total yards per game before Saturday’s game but the Panthers offense answered the call, surpassing that total in the running game alone – rushing for 350 yards to top last week’s program-high 340. And not to be overlooked, the GSU defense put together its most complete game so far in the 2019 season. Who earns the plaudits for this team win and what piece is still missing from the winning formula? This is Upon Further Review.
In contrast to the last game, Georgia State’s win cannot be credited to a fast offensive start. Early on, Coastal’s defensive front was winning in the trenches, stuffing the run and forcing some quick punts. The big step-up from the defense, however, did come from the word “Go”. The Chants started their first drive in plus territory after a poor punt from Brandon Wright but could not even move into field goal range. They started their next drive at their own 45 after – continuing an unfortunate trend of the day – a bad Wright punt. This drive, though, lasted a play after safety Remy Lazarus forced QB Fred Payton to fumble and defensive end Terry Thomas fell on the ball. Georgia State’s offense, still struggling to this point, was able to capitalize on the turnover and open the scoring with a Wright 38-yard field goal. Coastal was able to tie it up on their next possession, with most of the yardage coming on a 37-yard keeper from Payton. The good news was that it was all uphill from this play for the Georgia State defense – they would not allow a longer play the rest of the way. The sloppiest quarter Georgia State’s offense has played in some time was capped off by a poor interception from Dan Ellington, who has largely done a great job of keeping the ball out of harm’s way this season. On this throw, he forced it into double coverage and safety Alex Spillum made no mistake reeling in the pick.
To their credit, the Panther defense again stood tall in the face of a short field and mounting momentum for the Chanticleers, holding Jamey Chadwell’s bunch to a Massimo Biscardi field goal. At this point, the offense of Georgia State started to wake up. The Panthers started to work into manageable down-and-distances and took advantage of some Coastal Carolina penalties to push the ball into Chants territory before RB Seth Paige broke off the first big play of the day for State, hitting the hole to the outside and taking it down the sideline for the 46-yard score. The Panther defense followed this by forcing a Coastal three-and-out and giving the ball back to an offense that was starting to find its groove. Led down the field with healthy doses of Paige and Tra Barnett, Georgia State took a 17-6 lead into the half after Ellington found WR Cornelius McCoy for a quick hitter at the goal line.
The Chanticleers came out hot in the second half, pushing into Panther territory in five plays. They averted danger by converting a 3rd-and-long with a screen pass to running back CJ Marable and Bryce Carpenter followed the next play with a nice touchdown pass over the middle to Jaivon Heiligh. This was the only sequence of the game where the Georgia State defense really got picked apart. All night, the Panthers front controlled the middle on inside run plays. Marable had entered the game averaging just shy of 100 rushing yards a game, good for top 5 in the Sun Belt, and the Panthers held him to an ineffectual 15 yards on 10 carries. So, after Coastal cut the lead to 4 right out of the break, Georgia State picked up where they left off in the first half and ran, ran, ran. The sequence that followed: Georgia State touchdown, Coastal Carolina three-and-out, Georgia State touchdown, and it was a 31-13 Georgia State lead with 2:44 left in the 3rd.
Here’s the part of the game that, even in a win, stands out as a place for improvement. A growing issue for Georgia State this year has been failing to kill off games. This isn’t the first Upon Further Review to touch on this theme (Furman and Texas State come to mind) but, if you’re Georgia State, hopefully it’s the last. At this time of the game, an 18-point lead is close to insurmountable but not entirely. The Panthers still needed to put it away for good. Instead, they had to punt it away on a drive where the lead could have risen to 38-13. On their next drive, Coastal found the end zone and added a two-point conversion to make it a 10-point game with 10:34 to go – certainly not an impossible deficit at that juncture. Coastal then came up with another stop and were set to get the ball back but fumbled on the punt return, turning it over to GSU inside their own red zone. Georgia State was in a prime position to add that game-killing touchdown late and put it out of reach. However, the drive stalled out and the curious decision was made to go for the field goal, even though it would stay a two-score game even with a make. Wright disastrously misses the kick and Georgia State comes up empty on a drive they started at the Coastal 19.
All of the above need not erase the positives from this game – breaking the school record in rushing yards for the second straight week, having three 100-yard rushers (Ellington, Barnett, Paige) and winning a conference game on the road. This was a good win for Georgia State and an encouraging game from the defense in particular, but the Panthers are playing with fire by letting teams hang around. 4-2 is a great place to be halfway through the season, but it’s what comes in the next six that could make the difference between a good and a great season.
2019 True Freshman Tracker
Games played (6): ILB Jordan Veneziale, LS Seth Glausier
Games played (3): WR Cadarrius Thompson
Games played (2): QB Cornelious Brown, DB Bryquice Brown, WR Jamari Thrash
Games played (1): OL Luis Cristobal