Despite scoring 18 unanswered points in the third quarter, the Georgia State football team fell short in its home opener against North Carolina 35-28 at Center Parc Stadium Saturday afternoon.


“I never, ever question what we do as a football team does as far as effort,” Panthers’ head coach Shawn Elliott said. “Some of our execution could have been better, but man, what a team that we have. The way we played against the University of South Carolina and the University of North Carolina, we’re going to hold our heads high and come back better next week.”


Trailing 21-10 to start the second half, Georgia State (0-2) cut the deficit on its first possession of the third quarter on Robert Lewis’ 49-yard touchdown catch from Darren Grainger.
Lewis has career highs with 10 receptions for 115 yards along with two touchdowns. Grainger finished the game with a team-high 259 total yards (184 yards passing and 75 yards rushing).
The Panthers’ positive momentum continued when on the very next play from scrimmage, linebacker Jacorey Crawford intercepted North Carolina (3-0) quarterback Drake Maye’s pass. Georgia State took advantage and Michael Hayes’ field goal at the 10:19 mark of the third quarter made the score 21-20 in favor of the Tar Heels.
Georgia State created another turnover on North Carolina’s next offensive possession. Maye completed his pass to Kobe Paysour but a group of Panthers tackled the receiver and forced a fumble recovered by Crawford.
Georgia State took the lead on a 10-play, 98-yard drive that culminated with a 29-yard touchdown pass from Grainger to Lewis with 2:04 left in the third quarter. The Panthers converted a two-point conversion on a catch by Jamari Thrash, making the score 28-21.
North Carolina responded with a 58-yard touchdown run up the middle by Omarion Hampton on its next possession tying up the score at 28-28 going into the fourth quarter. Hampton finished the day with a game-high 110 rushing yards.
The Tar Heels retook the lead early in the fourth quarter on Hampton’s two-yard TD run down the middle, making the score 35-28.
Georgia State created another turnover late in the fourth quarter when Antavious Lane’s tackle of Jones forced a fumble recovered by Jontrey Hunter. However, Panthers were unable to score to tie the contest.


“We had the opportunity to take that game but didn’t make the plays we needed to offensively, defensively and special teams,” Elliott said. “It was a team loss.”


On the first possession of the contest, North Carolina converted a fourth-and-one on a two-yard run by Omarion Hampton. The Tar Heels took advantage of their extra plays and scored the first touchdown of the contest on a 55-yard touchdown pass from Maye to Kamari Morales on an inside slant. Maye had a game-high 284 passing yards and two touchdowns.
Georgia State scored its first points of the contest on a 45-yard field goal by Hayes. The Panthers missed a good opportunity for a touchdown of their own on the previous play when Grainger missed a wide open pass to Kris Byrd. Georgia State also got a break when a Grainger fumble was overturned after review to an illegal forward pass.
North Carolina opened the second quarter with another touchdown courtesy of a seven-yard touchdown run by D.J. Jones.
The Tar Heels continued their fast start, increasing their lea to 21-3 on 28-yard touchdown catch by Paysour with 8:58 remaining in the first half.
Georgia State got its first touchdown of the contest on a six-yard catch by Byrd from Grainger at the 5:32 mark of the second quarter.
North Carolina outgained Georgia State in total yards 467-419.