On the most auspicious of nights, the Tennessee State Blue Tigers ruined the grand opening of Georgia State’s new stadium by defeating the Panthers 17-10.
The tail of the tape is an old story. Too many of the bad things and not enough of the good. It might have been all of the hoopla surrounding the new stadium or it could have been the normal excitement of the season opener. Whatever the case, the Panthers couldn’t find any rhythm on offense.
Nine of Georgia State’s 12 possessions were five plays or less. Two of the three possessions that exceeded five plays resulted in scores. The Panthers shot themselves in the foot on the third possession giving up a sack after a holding penalty.
The Panthers were good at one thing Thursday night, shooting holes in their boat. Georgia State’s offense turned the ball over five times, including an interception on the potential game-tying drive. While the defense allowed Tennessee State to capitalize on only one of the fumbles for a field goal, the turnovers killed drives. Of the nine trips the Panthers offense took into or near the Blue Tigers side of the field two ended in scores, three ended with turnovers, two ended on downs, and two ended with a punt.
Perhaps the most frustrating drive of the night ended with the Panthers threatening on the Blue Tigers’ 4-yard line. In the third quarter, quarterback Conner Manning his tight end Ari Werts for a 59-yard play. The officials tacked on 13 more yards for a roughing the passer penalty on TSU. The Panthers couldn’t get in the end zone nor could they convert fourth and one from inside the five.
“We got to be a bit more creative, to tell you the truth,” explained head coach Shawn Elliott. “ We got to develop a better run game. When I say better, we got to develop a run game.”
For as much as the offense faltered, the defense played well. One big play spelled the difference in the game. Despite University of Florida transfer Treon Harris’ 96 rushing yards, it was a 59-yard run by running back Seth Rowland from the Tennessee State 4-yard line that turned a potential tragedy into a celebration. Rowland’s jaunt set up what turned out to be the Blue Tigers’ game-winning touchdown.
A great punt by redshirt sophomore Oliver Holdenson pinned the Blue Tigers on their 6-yard line with 2:32 to play. The Panthers’ defense needed to come up with stops and hold the Blue Tigers to three plays in order to give the offense a shot at tying the game. They met the challenge but TSUs Austin Rowley hit his best punt of the game. He sent the last punt of the night high into the cool summer night’s air a full 16 yards beyond the game’s 37.8-yard average.
With the game on the line, backup quarterback Aaron Winchester dropped back and fired a strike right into the hands of TSU defensive back Dajour Nesbeth.
“It was a huge win,” said Tennessee State head coach Rod Reed. “We knew we were playing an FBS opponent, and our kids wanted to come down here, especially the ones from Georgia, and show what Tennessee (State) football is all about. It is not just a big win for TSU, but also for the HBCU and the Ohio Valley Conference.”
Georgia State has 17 days to prepare before going on the road to play Penn State.
All photos by Jason McDonald, JM Photography for CORE360 Sports