Last season, Georgia State just barely escaped Boone, NC with a win by kicking a last second field goal to secure the victory 24-21. The win was the first on the road in the Panthers’ young history and started a four game winning streak. The result came despite the Fighting Camels dominating the line of scrimmage, running for 257 yards and holding the ball for more than 37 minutes. Despite the success on the ground and winning the time of possession, Campbell never led in the game. Coach Bill Curry commented on last year’s game and what it did for the program in his weekly press conference.
"We played Campbell a year ago in one of the most memorable moments since we started the program," Curry said. "It was our first road trip and literally the first time some of our players had been on an airplane. We managed to make a drive at the end of the game and kick a field goal to win. That was the start of a very good attitude on our team about fourth quarters, which prevailed through the entire year. We didn't get that done this year, and that's all too obvious."
Campbell enters this year’s game with a 6-4 record.
Campbell competes in the Pioneer Football League, an FCS football-only conference that does not offer athletic scholarships to Football players. The Fighting Camels, who restarted their football program in 2008, have never beaten a scholarship Division-1 football team. However, they have put up impressive offensive numbers this season, scoring 34.4 points per game. They have also rushed for 227.7 yards per game while averaging 4.8 yards per rush and scoring 32 touchdowns on the year.
The Fighting Camels use a three pronged rushing attack featuring running backs Carl Smith and C.J. Oates as well as fullback Jordan Cramer. Smith leads the attack with 150 attempts for 678 yards (4.5 yards per carry) and 6 touchdowns. Oates gets fewer carries but has had more success breaking his rushes for long gains, running the ball 85 times for 502 yards (5.9 yards per carry). Fullback Jordan Cramer is a touchdown machine, scoring twelve on the season while running for 403 yards on 64 attempts (6.3 yards per carry).
Campbell has received very efficient play from their quarterback Braden Smith. The junior signal caller has completed 158 of 281 passes, good for a 56.2 completion percentage, 1,715 yards and 13 touchdowns while throwing only 13 interceptions. His best performance of the year came in a win against Butler when he completed 15 of 19 passes for 202 yards and 2 touchdowns and no interceptions.
The Fighting Camels rely heavily on their rushing attack to fuel their offense and control the ball. Their losses to Old Dominion, Jacksonville, and Drake were all situations where they fell behind very early and had to rely on their passing to try to make a comeback. Against Davidson the fighting camels struggled mightily to run the football, running for just 140 yards on 40 attempts (3.7 yards per carry) and as a result Smith threw the ball 42 times, completing only 16 and throwing 2 interceptions.
Even though Campbell did come out of the Davidson game with a victory, the game showed that Georgia State’s best chance to slow down the Campbell attack is to stack the box and try to stop the run, something the Panthers have struggled with this season. Campbell has a very strong offensive line, which has an average size of 6’4 and 301 pounds, and has only given up 13 sacks on the season. Slowing down the rushing attack will be no small task for Georgia State, but something they must do in order to win. Regarding the Campbell rushing attack, Curry stated that "[t]hey are big and physical and move the ball well". "They want to run it down your throat, but they have the ability to throw the ball, too,” he continued.
The Cambell offense has been potent enough to allow the fighting camels to secure their first winning season since restarting their program in 2008. However, the Campbell defense has done little to help that cause. The fighting camels give up 419.3 yards per game including 295.2 through the air. They have been successful against the run, however, holding opponents to just 124.1 yards per game on the ground and only allowing 13 rushing touchdowns all season.
The Fighting Camels are led on defense by a strong core of senior leadership. It all starts in the pass rush with defensive end Jeremiah Robinson. The 6’2 senior has totaled 59 tackles on the season, 14.5 of which went for a loss, and recorded 6.5 sacks. Leading the Camels in total tackles with 60 on the season is senior middle linebacker Chris Price. Anchoring the secondary is senior defensive back Erik Feliciano, who has totaled 58 tackles and pulled in two interceptions. Campbell runs a 3-4 scheme which is anchored in the middle by 6’3 293 pound nose guard Randell Herring. The senior lineman has amassed 48 tackles, 4 tackles for a loss, and 2.5 sacks.
In losses to Old Dominion, Jacksoville, Drake, and Valparaiso the Fighting Camels gave up 365, 374, 353, and 317 yards through the air, respectively. It is not a stretch to say that the weakness of this defense is their secondary. However, unfortunately for Georgia State, the Panther’s success on offense has not come from throwing the ball. But with running backs Travis Evans and Parris Lee out for the final game and leading rusher Donald Russell questionable, backup Malcolm Smith will see more carries and GSU will likely be throwing more than normal.
This game will be Kelton Hill’s last chance to impress the coaches before the quarterback competition opens up once again in the Spring. He has been erratic throwing the football and while he has been productive running with the football, he has had poor ball security, losing 4 fumbles in his 4 starts. Look for Georgia State to spread the field and try to connect on short passes. If they can do that successfully and wideouts Danny Williams and Albert Wilson can make a big play or two, then the Panthers should be able to come away with the victory on Senior Day.