Prior to a 34-10 loss to Troy, the Georgia State football team enjoyed the sweet taste of winning. The main reason for their recent success was the offense’s explosion. After scoring 10 points in the first two games combined, the Panthers rebounded to score 102 points in three straight contests.
The offense has always had this potential, it just took them awhile to put it all together and get it clicking. The coaching staff preaches for the team to get better and better each week, and they were doing that. Troy’s thumping on Homecoming was a drastic stray away from their prior dominance.
Before their three-game road winning streak, the team was shutout against Penn State despite getting something going offensively. Running back Taz Bateman rushed for over 100 yards in the big loss to Penn State. That was not the case against Troy, who limited Georgia State’s entire ground game to 57 rushing yards.
After a solid performance against Penn State, Bateman got hurt early in the next game against Charlotte, which forced Glenn Smith into action, who responded well by rushing for 95 yards and two touchdowns.
The Charlotte game was really when the offense picked up, and it never really looked back. From then on, quarterback Conner Manning and wide receiver Penny Hart developed a deadly connection.
“We’ve had a lot of work besides just games, but I felt after the past couple of weeks, we’ve built out on that a lot,” Manning said. “I know I trust him and I rely on him.”
Over that stretch, Manning threw for 966 yards and six touchdowns and Hart caught 30 passes for 463 yards and five touchdowns.
In two of those games, Hart caught 11 passes, which is his school record. His 190 receiving yards against Louisiana Monroe were a school record. Also, in that game, the Panthers had 670 yards of total offense, which set a school record.
The Panthers rushed 224 yards against ULM. This was done without Smith or Bateman. Kyler Neal led the way for the Panthers with 65 yards and one touchdown. Demarcus Kirk added 56 yards of his own in the game.
Despite the output, offensive coordinator Travis Trickett believes that the team left some plays on the field.
“We’re still not where we need to be,” Trickett said. “We left a lot of yards out there. As much as we had, we still left yards out there, and most teams can say that when they play, but its understanding little things.”
Manning received some national recognition for his 446 four-touchdown performance against ULM. He was given a helmet sticker on ESPN’s College Football Final by Adnan Virk. Helmet stickers are placed on a team’s helmet if one of their players had an exceptional game.
“Its neat, especially getting recognition for its program, but it’s just one of those things that happens,” Manning said.
However, the little things were the root of many issues which brought Georgia State their first conference loss of the year. Conner Manning as well as the offensive line did not work in unison to keep the senior signal caller upright. Attention to detail and focus on defense were more small areas that played enormous roles in the lopsided loss.
The Panthers will attempt to display their road magic again at home on Thursday night, against the South Alabama Jaguars (3-4, 2-1).
One thing for sure is that the Panthers will be up for the task.
“I think just playing at home and defending our home turf is a big deal for us,” Manning said.
Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 26 at Georgia State Stadium, and the game will be nationally broadcasted on ESPNU.