Conner Manning bounces back versus Texas State

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Conner Manning walks on the field before game against Ball State on Sept. 2. Photo By Dayne Francis | The Signal
Conner Manning walks on the field before the game against Ball State on Sept. 2.
Photo By Dayne Francis | The Signal

After a difficult game versus Appalachian State where Conner Manning threw four interceptions, completed less than 50 percent of his passes for only 153 yards, the Panther quarterback was angry and looking to flip the script on a 0-4 start to the season.

“I was definitely motivated by my performance last week. I told the team I put that on myself,” Manning said following the game versus Texas State. “I was going to do everything I can this week to prepare myself to get this offense ready to go [for Texas State].”

The Panthers returned to their home field at the Georgia Dome for their second game in Sun Belt conference play against a team they dominated 41-19 a season ago. That game was the most points the team had ever scored as a program and the win also kicked off the four-game winning streak.

The Panthers needed something positive to boost their confidence again this season, but in the first quarter of the game, fans might’ve  wondered if the Panthers were even in the building. Offensively, Georgia State had only 79 yards of offense and they trailed 14-0 at the end of the quarter. The Bobcats were having their way with the Panther defense for 201 total yards by the end of the quarter.

Coach Miles preached to his team that it was too early to panic and told his team to relax after Texas State jumped out to a 14-0 lead.

“It was too early in the game to panic,” Coach Miles said following the game and reminded his team that they just needed to continue to do what they do and stick to the game plan.

Georgia State turned the tables in a big way in the second quarter with 24 unanswered points. This was just the spoonful of sugar the Panthers needed after a tumultuous start to 2016. Before the half was over, the Panther offense improved to 314 yards and the defense limited the Bobcats to only 45 more yards. The Panthers opened up scoring in the second quarter with a 1-yard touchdown run by Manning. The Panthers followed that drive with a Jerome Smith interception, his third so far this season. That turnover eventually led the Panthers to an 8-yard pass from Manning to Keith Rucker, Jr. for another touchdown to tie the game at 14 apiece.

In the first quarter, the passing game appeared to focus mostly on east-west swing passes, but once the Panthers started aiming downfield they were able to move the chains almost at will and opened up some room to run. Redshirt junior running back Kyler Neal was 9 yards short of a 100-yard game. It would have been the first time a Georgia State  running back eclipsed the century mark since Krysten Hammon’s 125 yard performance against New Mexico State in 2014. Glenn Smith busted out for the biggest gain with a 32-yard run for a touchdown in the second quarter. Overall the running game fell 4 yards short of 200 yards for the game. Manning found his favorite target, Robert Davis, for 149 yards including a 55-yard strike on the first play to start the second half. Conner Manning finished 27-of-40 passes for 340 yards and two touchdowns.

From the start of the second quarter till almost midway through the third quarter, the Panthers scored 31 unanswered points. Georgia State went on to defeat Texas State 41-21 matching their highest scoring in a game from a season ago and improve to 1-4 on the season and 1-1 in Sun Belt play.

There is one little fun fact about your Panthers from our buddies at GSU Prime Time Sportz that even seemed to surprise Coach Miles. The Panthers are a perfect 11-for-11 in the red zone scoring this season.

It was true last year, and it remains to be seen if it will be true this year. A win can cure a lot of ills and can do wonders for a team’s confidence.

“What this win does means we are 1-0 today,” Coach Miles emphasized adding “anytime you get a win it helps your confidence.”

Georgia State will be looking to continue boosting its confidence as they prepare for another road trip against a much improved Troy. The Trojans will host the Panthers after a week off on Oct. 15 at 3:30 p.m. on ESPN3.