Tennessee was onlyGeorgia State’s third FBS opponent after playing Alabama in 2010 and Houston in 2011 (both having finished their season ranked in the top 20). So, first we should note a few historical achievements that resulted from Saturday’s game against the Volunteers:
- The Panthers scored their first offensive points against an FBS opponent.
- The Panthers scored their first offensive touchdown against an FBS opponent.
- The Panthers scored their highest number of points against an FBS opponent.
- The Panthers allowed the fewest number of points against an FBS opponent.
The Panthers kept the game fairly tight for much of the first half. After the first quarter, the score was 3-7 (an improvement over last week), and with five minutes to go in the half, the score was 6-14. While the improvements over last week’s loss to SCSU were obvious to anyone who watched both games, a detailed look at the numbers reveals how dramatic the improvement really was, especially when the quality of the opponent is taken into consideration.
GSU v. Tennessee Stats compared to GSU v. SCSU stats (in parentheses):
- GSU First Downs: 22 (12)
- GSU Passing Yards: 176 (130)
- Average Yards per Completion: 9.8 (9.3)
- Net Passing Yards: 176 (130)
- Total Offensive Yards: 263 (229)
- Total Offensive Plays: 82 (58)
- Time of Possession: 34:18 (24:20)
- Third Down Conversions: 4 of 19 (2 of 13)
- Fourth Down Conversions: 3 of 4 (0 of 1)
- Red Zone Scores-Chances: 3-3 (2-4)
- Sacks Taken-Yards Lost: 3-26 (6-47)
- Field Goals: 2-2 (2-4)
Beyond the numbers, the Panthers were able to do some things that should give GSU fans hope going into next week's game against UTSA and beyond into the CAA schedule. In their opening drive, the Panthers converted third downs of 20 and 25 yards, a far cry from the three-and-out they opened with against SCSU. Quarterback Ben McLane converted two fourth downs with short runs, and scored the Panthers' only touchdown on a 12-yard scramble. Donald Russell had 68 yards on 15 carries, none of which went for a loss, and Albert Wilson and Parris Lee combined for 4 rushes for 28 yards, also without a loss. In addition, Christian Benvenuto went 2-for-2, kicking field goals of 32 and 30 yards.
GSU Head Coach Bill Curry agreed that there was reason to be encouraged by the Panther’s performance. “I see enormous progress in the eyes and in the efforts of our guys. Are we playing the kind of football that we have to? No. But I see effort and a lot of fire, and we don’t give up. Ever.”
Despite the fact that most consider GSU’s best unit to be their receivers, the Panthers were able to achieve their improved performance without two of their top three receivers for most of the game. Danny Williams did not play at all due to the lingering effects of an ankle injury he sustained in last week's game. Jordan Giles left the game with a shoulder injury after catching two passes for 34 yards in the first quarter.
On defense, the GSU defensive line came up with a pair of turnovers as Terrance Woodard recovered a fumble and Joe Lockley grabbed an interception on a tipped ball late in the third quarter, indicating that the Panthers are taking to heart this season’s mantra of “Man up and Finish.”
In all, GSU Head Coach Bill Curry was much more pleased with his team’s effort. “We fought and scratched every step of the way,” said Curry. “There was much more grit and determination this game than last week, and we’ll show more next week and the next week. That’s a promise. This group is special.”
The Panthers return to the Dome the Saturday, September 15, at 6.pm to take on the UTSA Road Runners.