Upon Further Review: Tennessee

Upon Further Review: Tennessee

This past Saturday’s game is still a lot to process – Georgia State really did go into Neyland Stadium and knock off SEC blueblood Tennessee to start the season 1-0 for the second consecutive year. With that in mind, here’s the first of a weekly feature on THERSdayNight.com, a deeper dive into the details and the determining factors. This is Upon Further Review.

When looking back on this game, two things jump off the stat sheet – the turnover margin and rushing yards for each team. Georgia State forced three Volunteer turnovers, all at key times in the game and all of which led directly to points. To win an upset like this, you need to start fast and get some early momentum. The fumble/interception (the jury is still out on the ruling here) by Ed Curney on the second play of the game is almost literally as early as it gets. That led to a 7-0 GSU lead when Seth Paige was able to find the end zone on the ensuing drive. And right near the death of the game, after taking a 28-23 lead, the Panthers recovered a fumble and got an interception on successive defensive possessions, adding a touchdown and field goal respectively to push the lead to 15 – putting the game on ice.

The offense under new offensive coordinator Brad Glenn featured a renewed focus on option concepts – speed options, zone reads, RPOs – and a general determination to run the ball. Georgia State was able to keep Tennessee’s defense guessing, especially as the game wore on and fatigue set in, and the game plan really worked to great success – to the tune of 213 rushing yards and 38 points. But more importantly, it felt like the play calling was tailored to the personnel. It felt like there was a cohesive, big-picture plan at play. 

On the player side, the blocking from the offensive line was strong all game long. An added wrinkle to the offense was the effectiveness of the tight ends in the H-back slot, allowing them to line up as an additional blocker on the interior. The running backs perhaps best exemplified the want-to of the Panthers on this day. Tra Barnett and Seth Paige ran hard through the holes the offensive line provided and wouldn’t go down easy, shedding soft tackle attempts by the Volunteer defense. And certainly not to be forgotten, the calmness and poise with which Dan Ellington ran the offense may have been the biggest X-factor in the game. His quiet confidence and total lack of panic fed the whole unit – and the whole team.

On the other side of the ball, it is capital-C Crazy that Georgia State came into Knoxville and held Tennessee to under 100 yards rushing. Part of this, it has to be said, can be attributed to inconsistent play calling on Tennessee’s part. After having a lot of success early in the game running the ball – capped by a big 31-yard touchdown run by Ty Chandler to make it a 14-7 Tennessee lead – offensive coordinator Jim Chaney didn’t emphasize nearly as much as expected. But the other truth is that the defensive front for Georgia State held their own and didn’t let the Vols get consistency in the run game. The Panthers’ front seven did not match up sizewise with the offensive line of Tennessee, but they used their smaller stature to their advantage – out-speeding them and taking advantage of their own agility.

But past the stats and the Xs and Os, what stood out – both while watching it live in the stadium and rewatching it – is how it never felt like GSU was ever out of the game and how they never looked outmatched. By the end of the game, the Sun Belt outfit was the team who looked fully conditioned and ready for more while the vaunted SEC team was the team struggling to get set defensively. That’s a testament to the work of the strength and conditioning team and to the coaches getting Georgia State ready for this one tactically as well as mentally. This was a signature win and, as many college football prognosticators have said, it didn’t feel like a fluke. Georgia State deserved to win that game and that’s got to be a good feeling for Shawn Elliott and his program.

2019 True Freshman Counter (through one game)

  • Games played (1): ILB Jordan Veneziale, LS Seth Glausier
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