Upon Further Review: Georgia Southern

Quad Brown finished Saturday’s 30-24 victory against rival Georgia Southern with 372 passing yards, going 8/9 for 126 yards in the fourth quarter alone. Photo: Todd Drexler / Georgia State Sports Communications

Another installment of Modern Day Hate has come and gone, and in the 2020 edition of State vs Southern, the Panthers came out on top 30-24. Georgia State erased an 11-point 4th quarter deficit and battled an ineffective ground game en route to their first win against the Eagles since 2017. The Panthers have now retaken the series lead, winning four of the first seven matchups. So if they couldn’t run the ball, how did the Panthers end their losing streak against the Eagles? This is Upon Further Review. 

Dr Quad and Mr Brown

The last two weeks have shown Panther fans exactly what it means to have an incredibly gifted, yet very raw quarterback at the helm. The Panthers could only muster 55 yards on the ground against the Eagles, their lowest rushing output of the season and only the second time they have failed to reach the century mark in 2020. Offensive coordinator Brad Glenn had to lean on his young quarterback to move the ball on offense and Quad Brown only went and broke his career passing yard mark for the second straight week. He ended the day with 372 passing yards and he finished with a flourish. In the all-important 4th quarter, Quad was 8-for-9 for 126 yards as he led the team back from being down 11.

In his last two games, Quad has directly contributed to five turnovers, throwing four interceptions and losing one fumble on a strip sack. Yet the redshirt freshman has also completed 70% of his passes and thrown for over 700 yards in those games. Despite the issues with holding onto the football, Quad has been excellent at a time when the Panthers needed him most. It would have been easy for him to hide behind his mistakes and turn into a gun shy youngster, but his poise and composure has helped the Panthers win both games despite the ball security issues. He leads the conference in interceptions, but he also now leads the Sun Belt in passing yards and passing yards per game. Not bad for a redshirt freshman in his first full collegiate season.

Three Deep Receivers

Sun Belt teams have had a rough go of it defending Georgia State WR Sam Pinckney this season, and the Eagles were no exception. Fresh off setting a career high for receiving yards in a game against South Alabama, the redshirt sophomore caught 10 passes (a new career high) for 126 yards against Georgia Southern. On the other side, junior wideout Cornelius McCoy commanded the attention of the Eagles’ promising freshman corner Derrick Canteen and won more battles than he lost. McCoy caught 5 passes for 111 yards and a score against Georgia Southern, which included a beautiful 45-yard touchdown to cut the Panthers’ deficit to 1 just before halftime. Since returning from injury after the Coastal Carolina loss, McCoy has caught 17 passes for 285 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Another key component for the Georgia State passing game was the play of Terrance Dixon in the slot. Dixon finished the day with a season-high 7 receptions and a career-high 77 yards, but no catch was more important than his two catches on the Panthers’ go-ahead drive late in the 4th quarter. On second-and-10 from the Georgia Southern 45, Quad threw an off-balance pass downfield to a contorting Dixon, who was somehow able to turn his body away from the two Eagles defenders bearing down on him and come down with a huge 31-yard catch. A few plays later, Dixon’s 13-yard out route would give Georgia State a much more manageable 3rd and short, which, after an Eagles offsides penalty, left Georgia State in prime position to score the game-winning touchdown. 

The Defense is Probably Good?

Much like the rest of the team, it has been an up-and-down year for the Panthers’ defense. Through their first five games, they were allowing over 41 points a game. Early in the season, teams were able to bend the Panthers defense and rack off big plays despite their success in forcing turnovers and living in opposing backfields. Of late, it’s been a different story. Including Saturday’s win over the Eagles, the Panthers gave up just 22.3 points per game in their last four games to lower their season average all the way down to 32.9.

While Georgia State has struggled when facing pass-happy teams, they have been one of the top Sun Belt teams at defending against the run. This dynamic played out on Saturday. Georgia Southern RB Logan Wright was able to burst free for a 63-yard touchdown run in the 2nd quarter and a 56-yard carry on the first play of the third quarter. But outside of those chunk plays, the Eagles managed just 177 yards on 45 carries. They weren’t able to consistently move the ball on the ground and their offense stagnated as a result. And late in the game, the other strength of the Georgia State defense showed up – forcing turnovers. The Sun Belt leaders in takeaways, they had gone without one during the game’s first 58 minutes but wouldn’t go home on Senior Day empty-handed. Protecting a late 27-24 lead in the final minutes, Jordan Strachan came up with a strip-sack of Justin Tomlin – which the offense turned into 3 points – and Qua White nabbed his third interception of the year to make it two turnovers in two drives and to end the Eagles’ hopes.

What’s Next?

With their win against the Eagles, Georgia State will end the 2020 regular season with a 5-4 record and secure their first back-to-back winning regular seasons in program history. All that’s left for the Panthers to wait on is a potential invite to a bowl game. Although the Panthers are 5-4, the NCAA had previously announced that all teams would be eligible for selection to a bowl game. The 6-win threshold normally needed for postseason football will not apply to Georgia State. Whether or not they are selected remains up in the air, but a win over a rival and a straight winning season makes for good momentum for whatever the Panthers face next.

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