Georgia State football’s loss to Louisiana-Monroe saw the team’s winning streak come to a painful end

Jonathan Ifedi runs towards the end zone during Saturday night's loss against the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks. Photo courtesy of Jordan Kidd/ GSU Athletics

A record-setting night in rushing for the Panthers was not enough as they fell to the Warhawks of the University of Louisiana at Monroe, losing 45-31.

Even worse, the team lost seniors Dan Ellington and Remy Lazarus through injury in the game. Ellington, who suffered a non-contact knee injury during a run at the end of the first half, looked to be in a lot of pain and did not return. He finished the game on the sidelines, needing crutches to assist his walking. 

“He has a twisted knee,” head coach Shawn Elliott said. The severity of Ellington’s injury is not yet known. The team hopes he can return to action at any point this season.

In a game that blossomed into a shootout, something that Elliott and his Georgia State squad are quite familiar with, a strong fourth quarter by the Warhawks was the difference. 

Specifically, Warhawks quarterback Caleb Evans’ play propelled them to victory, while the Panthers’ defense, which lost Lazarus in the second half, continued to struggle.

After Panthers running back Tra Barnett rushed in for seven yards to tie the game at 31, things stopped going the Panthers’ way, both offensively and defensively. Freshman quarterback Cornelious Brown struggled to get the offense moving, and penalties did not help the cause either.

Evans connected with receiver Markis McCray twice in the fourth quarter on back-to-back offensive possessions, sealing the Panthers’ hope of their five-game winning streak.

“It’s a disappointing loss,” Elliott said. “We’ve got to get a lot of guys healthy. It was a tough game for us from an injury standpoint, but we’ve got a lot left to play for.”

The Panthers may be hurting from this loss, but they have other issues and wounds to heal. If Ellington’s and Lazarus’ injuries keep them sidelined for the remainder of the season, it will be a daunting task to guarantee a bowl appearance. 

Running backs Tra Barnett and Seth Paige combined for 309 yards rushing and benefitted from the physical play of the offensive line. Overall, the Panthers set a new rushing record with 414 yards on the ground.

While they set records in the running game, the passing game struggled after Ellington went out in the second quarter. Brown finished the game 8-for-18, with 80 yards.

The defense was unable to get stops and make necessary tackles, putting much pressure on a Panther offense without Ellington at the head.

A gutsy call by Elliott to keep his offense on the field for a fourth-and-nine with a little more than 5 minutes left to go killed off the game. Brown failed to link up with Sam Pinckney and the Warhawks found the endzone to seal the 45-31 victory soon after. 

So, what did we learn? 

The defense was nonexistent 

This Panthers lost because of the defense’s inability to make tackles and get stops on third down. We saw glimpses of this against Western Michigan, Texas State and Troy.

Whether they prepared properly or not, this is something that will have to be improved on before hosting Appalachian State and traveling to Georgia Southern. It is also important that they get to the quarterback and force turnovers.

Injuries may affect bowl game hopes

Six wins does not guarantee you a bowl appearance. So, while the Panthers are bowl eligible, the team will need another win to guarantee their spot in a bowl game.

With Ellington’s and Lazarus’ injuries, however, things may become complicated, should either not return this season. As the leaders on the offensive and defensive fronts, Saturday’s defeat was a nightmare on both ends. 

The upcoming games against Appalachian State and Georgia Southern were not going to be easy with Ellington and Lazarus; without them would be another story entirely.  

Offense continues to thrive, but Brown needs to stay ready

This game proved again that the Panthers’ offense is their bread and butter and will help them win games. It also showed that with Ellington’s injury, Brown must be ready to take over the offense in this key part of the season, in case the star senior is not ready to go. A dual-threat quarterback is ultimately what makes the offense unstoppable.

The Panthers do not control their own destiny

This loss hurts the Panthers because they do not control their own destiny anymore for the Sun Belt title. If they were to win, it would have given them a chance to play key games against Appalachian State and Georgia Southern, knowing victories would propel them into the final. This loss heightens the pressure.

The team is still growing

Overall, the Panthers are having a historic season and want to keep achieving each of their goals they set out to achieve. 

This loss showed that even though they are hungry, the team is young and still has a lot of work to do. This is the third loss of the season, and in four of their games, the same issues with defense have repeatedly appeared. 

In order for the Panthers to continue winning at a high level and achieve more success, they will have to continue to learn and build off performances like this.