Behind five forced turnovers, including four interceptions, on defense and 335 rushing yards as a team on offense, the Georgia State football team increased its winning streak to two games with a 41-33 home win over Georgia Southern at Center Park Stadium in Atlanta Saturday afternoon.
“Anytime you play your rival and come out and defeat those guys this game means more to us,” Panthers’ head coach Shawn Elliot said. “This game means a lot. We prepared like that and pushed for it. I thought it was a great contest. We had to go out and win it. It feels very good.”
Georgia State (2-4, 1-1 Sun Belt) converted all three of its fourth-down attempts in the victory. All three took place when the Panthers held the lead.
“I have to be comfortable with what we’re doing offensively,” Elliott said. “I don’t see that as a huge risk because we have the ability to convert it. That’s the feel of the game.”
The five turnovers tied a school record for a single contest.
“That’s an awesome job,” Elliott said. “We’re just in the right spot at times to take that ball away. You have to put pressure on the quarterback to make him uncomfortable and we did that a few times. We were making plays today.”
Leading 27-17 to start the second half, Georgia State had a major decision on its first possession. On fourth-and-four in Georgia Southern (3-3, 0-2 Sun Belt) territory, the Panthers converted on a 10-yard pass by Darren Grainger to Ja’Cyais Credle. The drive ended with a three-yard touchdown run up the middle by Tucker Gregg, making the score 34-17 early in the third quarter. Gregg finished the day with 111 rushing yards and two touchdowns on the ground.
The Eagles’ response was a touchdown of their own as Kyle Vantrease connected with Khaleb Hood on a 15-yard touchdown pass, cutting the deficit to 34-24 midway though the third quarter. Vantrease threw for a game-high 359 yards and three touchdowns along with the four interceptions.
Georgia Southern got its first turnover of the contest on Marc Stampley’s interception of Grainger’s pass intended for Jamari Thrash. On the subsequent possession, the Eagles scored a touchdown on Amare Jones’ 24-yard touchdown catch from Vantrease. The extra point attempt was blocked by Justin Abraham, keeping the score 34-30 in favor of the Panthers.
Georgia State’s make another important decision on its next drive. On fourth-and-four, Grainger connected with Thrash on a six-yard pass to keep the drive alive. The next play from scrimmage saw Gregg take an inside handoff and run untouched for a 33-yard touchdown run, increasing Georgia State’s lead to 41-30 with 13:04 left in regulation. Grainger had a team-high 262 total yards (186 passing and 76 rushing) while Thrash had a team-high 75 receiving yards on five catches.
The Panthers held the Eagles to a 25-yard field goal attempt by Alex Raynor which was converted, decreasing their lead to 41-33 at the 8:26 mark of the fourth quarter.
Georgia State’s defense stood strong again on the next possession when on fourth-and-one, Vantrease was intercepted for the fourth time on the day by Jordan Jones. The Panthers controlled the clock the rest of the way to secure the victory.
Georgia Southern jumped out to the 7-0 lead on its opening possession of the contest. Jalen White’s four-yard touchdown run on an inside handoff completed the four-play, 75-yard scoring drive which also included a 65-yard pass completion from Vantrease to Jeremy Singleton.
Georgia State responded on its first possession with a touchdown to tie the score 7-7. The nine-play, 75-yard drive culminated with a 14-yard touchdown pass from Granger to Robert Lewis on an inside route.
Michael Hayes’ 23-yard field goal midway through the first quarter gave the Panthers their first lead of the contest, making the score 10-7. The drive was kept alive when a defensive chop block penalty was called against defensive back Wylan Free, negating a lost fumble by Georgia State running back Marcus Carroll.
The Georgia State defense created its second turnover of the contest when linebacker Jamil Muhammad intercepted Vantrease’s pass near midfield. It led to another field goal by Hayes, this time from 41 yards to increase the lead to 13-7 late in the first quarter.
The Eagles cut the deficit to 13-10 with 12:44 left in the first half on Raynor’s 35-yard field goal.
The scoring continued for the Panthers when Jamyest Williams took an inside handoff on third down and bounced it to the outside left for a six-yard TD run, making the score 20-10 at the 10:02 mark of the second quarter. Williams also had a long run of 42 yards on the drive and finished the day with a game-high 129 rushing yards on 16 carries.
After Georgia State forced its third turnover of the first half, this one courtesy of an interception of a Vantrease pass by Jontrey Hunter, Grainger’s 53-yard touchdown pass down the left side over two defenders to Thrash made the score 27-10 with 3:34 left in the first half.
The Eagles cut the deficit to 27-17 with 53 seconds remaining in the first half on a one-yard touchdown by Derwin Burgess Jr.
Georgia State outgained Georgia Southern in total yardage in the first half 335-236.