This game will be the final leg of a home-and-home series for the two schools as the Georgia State Panthers and the SC State Bulldogs met in Orangeburg, SC last year in a game that was indicative of the fourth-quarter struggles the Panthers endured last season. In that matchup, the Panthers led 13-10, but then the Bulldog’s scored the game’s final 13 points to defeat GSU, 23-13.
“Last year was a lesson playing against them because we played very hard, but they played harder,” said GSU Head Coach Bill Curry. “The game was a good physical match and was won by the team that was more determined. We've got to be more determined when the chips are down.”
This echos his previous critiques of last year, and is the reason why the theme for this year’s team has been “Man Up and Finish”. Accordingly, this game should be a telling matchup that will show whether the much-touted off-season discipline initiatives and conditioning program have indeed had their intended effect.
Curry respects the SC State program and knows that the Panthers will have to play well to give themselves a chance at a win.
“South Carolina State is one of the better FCS programs, and when I say program, I'm talking about perennial winners,” he said. “They've got 11 consecutive winning seasons to their credit and have won championships in their league. They have a tradition of over a century of excellent football.”
Despite their record of posting 11 straight winning seasons, SC State’s win against GSU last year ended a 12-game losing streak against non-HBCUs dating back to 1999. Their head coach Buddy Pough has been quoted as saying that this game is “a ‘live or die’ kind of deal” due to the Bulldog’s tough upcoming road schedule against Texas A&M and Arizona.
The main player to watch for SC State will be quarterback Richard Cue, an athletic quarterback who passed for 900 yards and seven touchdowns while rushing for 514 yards and eight scores in leading the Bulldogs to a 7-4 record in 2011. In the game against GSU, he finished 16-for-30 for 213 yards passing while rushing for two touchdowns. This year, expect the Bulldogs to once again depend heavily on Cue’s rushing ability as starting running back Asheton Jordon will be out with an ankle injury.
On GSU’s side of the ball, for the third time in three seasons, the Panthers will start a quarterback who will be under center in a collegiate game for the first time. Redshirt freshman Ben McLane from Snellville, Ga., earned the job in spring practice and affired his position during fall camp. Although he is playing his first game for Georgia State, he is quite comfortable in the Georgia Dome having led Brookwood High School to the 2010 Class AAAAA state title with a 52-38 victory over Colquitt County.
However, McClane will be surrounded by plenty of experienced players as Georgia State returns six starters on offense, led by running back Donald Russell, a senior from West Palm Beach, Fla., who led the Panthers last fall with 665 yards rushing and nine touchdowns, and wide receivers Albert Wilson, Danny Williams (who has caught a pass in every game of GSU’s 22-game history), and Jordan Giles.
On Defense, GSU will be far more inexperienced, having lost Christo Bilukidi and Jake Massau to the NFL, and will return only four starters. However, despite this Georgia State looks to be much improved on defense under first-year coordinator Anthony Midget and a new defensive scheme. The top returning tacklers are senior safety Demazio Skelton, who had 61 tackles and two interceptions, and junior linebacker Mark Hogan with 56 tackles, five tackles for loss and an interception. Junior cornerback DeMarius Matthews had a team-leading nine pass breakups. Theo Agnew, a transfer from Massachusetts, will start at defensive end (after having been cleared to play by the NCAA just yesterday) and three true freshmen are expected to play prominent roles, with linebacker Joseph Peterson earning a starting berth and defensive linemen Joe Lockley and Melvin King seeing plenty of action.
Curry announced earlier this week that the team will not have permanent captains saying that “We will name captains based on merit; how you work every week, all winter, all spring, all summer.” Accordingly, game captains will be named each Wednesday. The offensive, defensive, and special teams game captains for the South Carolina State contest are senior safety Demazio Skelton, junior wide receiver Jordan Giles and junior long snapper Scott McQueen, respectively.