At a time when many stopped believing in what Georgia State football is capable of, the Panthers came up big and handed a 30-24 loss to their biggest rival, Georgia Southern, in the final home game of year and the final game they would play in the Georgia Dome.
The Panthers came out swinging early, taking a 20-7 lead in the first quarter with three drives of 14 plays and 172 yards. Glenn Smith was first to set off fireworks with a 29-yard run capping off a 75 yard drive.
The defense came up very opportunistic on Georgia Southern’s second play of their first drive. Senior running back Matt Breida ran for two yards, but senior defensive end Shawanye Lawrence forced and recovered a fumble that gave the Panther offense excellent field position starting at the Eagles 26 yard line. Junior quarterback Conner Manning would drive the Panthers to the end zone, eventually punching in a one-yard touchdown run. Unfortunately, the special team’s woes would still haunt the Panthers, but still taking a 13-0 lead.
The Panthers hot streak didn’t end there. On their third possession of the game, Robert Davis would increase the Panthers lead to 20-0 after Manning connected with Davis for a 28-yard pass.
Before the first quarter was over, the Eagles would put 7 points on the board. Georgia Southern added a couple of more scores to their total and the Panthers would take a three point lead into halftime.
The Eagles got the ball to start the second half and the Panther defense eventually forced a punt. The Georgia State offense would take the field for the first time in the second half for an 11 play 83 yard drive ending in a 15 yard pass to Glenn Smith. By the end of the third quarter, the Panthers would build a 30-17 lead.
The Eagles would score a touchdown in the fourth quarter but would eventually fall to the Panthers for the second consecutive year in a row making for a very memorable senior night in the Georgia Dome.
“It was important for the coaches and me to send our seniors out with bragging rights in this series,” interim head coach Tim Lappano said. “The young guys are going to get to have three or four more years, but the seniors aren’t. Georgia Southern hammered us in the Georgia Dome two years ago. Then we went down to Statesboro and got after them. This was the rubber match, and I wanted to make sure we sent our seniors out the right way. This was the seniors last time playing in the Georgia Dome.”
Senior tight end Keith Rucker was open down the middle of the field practically all afternoon completing his second highest career game with 145 yards. Junior quarterback Conner Manning would finish the game 21 of 39 and 318 yards passing and two touchdowns. Junior running back Glenn Smith led all rushers with 38 yards and one touchdown.
The Georgia State win gives the Panthers a 2-1 lead in the series on the same night the university was awarded the inaugural Rivalry Series trophy. Georgia State was awarded the trophy representing all sports played between the two universities. The Panthers were 14-7 after the 2015-16 season and currently holds a 4-2 lead so far in the 2016-17 season. The win also ends almost any chance the Eagles have of making a bowl game this season.
Georgia State, whose record improves to 3-8, will conclude its 2016 season after a week off for some more stuffed bird at the Idaho Vandals at 5 p.m. Saturday Dec. 3.