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Georgia State football looking to return to form against Arkansas State

Tra Barnett breaks loose on a run during the Homecoming 2018 game versus Coastal Carolina. Photo by Chris Young | The Signal

It is Homecoming Week for the Georgia State Panthers. The last thing they want is for the Arkansas State Red Wolves to march into Atlanta and spoil their big day on Saturday.

The team has not fared too well in its previous two Homecoming Games. Last season, the team was defeated 37-34 by the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers, after a valiant comeback fell just short. In 2017, the team was run out of the Georgia State Stadium 34-10 by the Troy Trojans.

The Panthers, who have been on a two-game losing streak, after early-season wins against the Tennessee Volunteers and Furman Paladins, are in search of their first conference win of the season and will hope to turn around their recent form in Homecoming Games. 

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The soul-crushing, double-overtime defeat to Texas State on Sep. 21 was not the team’s intended start to Sun Belt Conference play. The defeat set back any of the progress which was made in the opening two games. 

After a much-needed week off, Georgia State head coach Shawn Elliott is taking advantage of the ability to rest up and prepare hard, in an effort to make sure his team is 100 % healthy and ready to go for the Homecoming Game.

“We’re getting our legs back under us a little bit,” Elliott said. “[We’re] just getting them back fresh [and] feeling good. [We’re] taking care of a lot of injuries that creeped up in the first four games. Just trying to perfect the things that we made mistakes on, coaching and playing wise.”

The Red Wolves, who are 3-2 on the season and a major contender in the Sun Belt each year, come in with a potent running attack, led by runningbacks Marcel Murray and Ryan Graham.

The Panthers have struggled to contain the run these past couple of games, including the defeat to Western Michigan, in which the defensive unit allowed a combined 450 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. If the team is to be victorious on Saturday, this will need to be reversed and is a major key to victory.

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Panthers safety and captain Remy Lazarus is making sure the defense is prepared.

“We haven’t beat them in a while, so we plan on studying up on film and a lot of what they do,” Lazarus said. “We know they present a lot of challenges in the run game and a very good receiver on the edge.”

For the Red Wolves, starting quarterback Logan Bonner is out for the season and Layne Hatcher will take over the reigns at the position. This represented a major blow to Blake Anderson’s team and could prove to be the difference.

Elliott knows that he will have to do more research to make sure they are prepared for the backup quarterback.

“To tell you the truth, we have gots to go find some film on the other guy,” said Elliott. “I don’t think it will change what they are doing offensively, I think they will continue to do what they do.”

Lazarus knows that is a major change but is not going to let it change the way the defense plays.

“We’re not too focused on that,” said Lazarus. “It’s college football, there’s no slouches out here, so I’m sure their backup quarterback will come out and present much of a challenge as their starter would.”

The team’s offense, led by seniors Dan Ellington and Tra Barnett, remains the Panthers main strength, as they average 32.5 points-per-game and remain balanced running and passing the football.

All of that begins with the offensive line and senior offensive lineman Hunter Atkinson knows the team must run the football well to come out victorious.

“We’re running the ball very well,” said Atkinson. “You have to have a good run game in order to be a successful offense.”

The offensive line has been a pleasant surprise thus far. Going into the season, the unit was a major question mark. To this point in time, however, the offensive line has been nothing short of brilliant.

Atkinson is also aware of the havoc the Red Wolves’ defensive unit may cause.

“They’re very well coached,” Atkinson said. “Personally, I think their D-line is very quick , they’re twitchy and have good movement. Overall, they are well coached and disciplined.”

The game will begin at 3:30 p.m.