Conner Manning threw for two touchdowns to lift the Georgia State Panthers to a 21-13 win over the South Alabama Jaguars for their first in the new stadium.
The Jaguars entered the game having defeated the same Troy team that drug the Panthers five days earlier on the very same field. Georgia State had not lost two games in a row since falling to Tennessee State and #5 Penn State in their first two games of the season.
Scheduling and Hurricane Irma kept the Panthers on the road for 51 days after playing the season opener. The Panthers game on the final day of September against Memphis was canceled to allow the Tigers to make-up a conference game with Central Florida.
The third time was a charm despite being out-gained on offense 338 yards to 309 yards. Georgia State’s defense made up the difference allowing the Jaguars passage to the end zone just once. “Let me just say our defense played a phenomenal football game, they really did,” said Panthers head coach Shawn Elliott. “They had them on their heels all game long. Our secondary, our linebackers, our defensive front, just made plays all night.”
Safety Bryan Williams made the first big play of the night for the Panthers picking off Jaguars quarterback Dallas Davis on the second play of the game. Williams returned the interception 30 yards to the six-yard line. Three plays later, Glenn Smith was standing in the end zone with a 2-yard touchdown reception.
Davis’ receivers let him down most of the night with a serious case of the drops. Twice in the first half, Davis’ passes that would have extended the drive in the red zone wound up going through the hands of his receivers. The drops forced the Jaguars to trade 7 for 3.
Georgia State’s defense kept the pressure on in the third while the offense chewed up the clock. South Alabama managed only three plays and six yards on their opening drive of the second half.
After trading another 7 for 3 in the third, Davis threw his second interception of the night. Cedric Stone stepped in front of the pass intended for wide receiver Malik Stanley at midfield and returned it to the Jaguars 23.
The Panthers were unable to capitalize on the turnover much to the dismay of Elliott. “We had to fight there at the end, and we should’ve had points on the board, and been able to kind of make them spit the bit out, so to speak, right there at the end,” said Elliott.
Trailing by 15 with over 10 minutes to play, South Alabama mounted their most productive drive of the game marching 58 yards to the Panthers 8 yard line. Davis and company took four shots at the end zone, one run and three passes, and came up empty.
There was still a glimmer of hope for the Jaguars after Jamarius Way’s 75-yard touchdown reception with a little over two minutes remaining. The light grew brighter as Blake Worthy recovered the onside kick for the Jaguars at midfield.
With the game on the line and the clock ticking down, the Panthers defense rose to the occasion. After allowing a 7-yard completion to Deonta Moore, the Panthers secondary closed the door to secure the win.
All photos by Jason McDonald, CORE360 Sports