Georgia State riding three-game winning streak ahead of No. 22 Coastal Carolina

You haven’t seen this Panther team, behind the offensive duo of Tucker Gregg and Jamyest Williams. Photo by Harry Wyman | The Signal

If the last you saw of the Georgia State Panthers was their dud against the Army Black Knights to kick off the season, or even their sloppy showing against the Appalachian State Mountaineers to start October, then you haven’t seen this team.

With their 21-14 win against the Georgia Southern Eagles, the Panthers are 4-4 and in a three-way tie for first place in the Sun Belt’s eastern division. It’s a far cry from their 1-4, 0-1 conference record a mere month ago that included three losses of more than 28 points.

What has changed? 

Well, Georgia State has been able to run their offense the way they had always intended – by pounding the rock. The deadly combination of Tucker Gregg and Jamyest Williams has accounted for 526 yards and 7 scores on 84 carries over the last three games. Quarterback Darren Grainger has kept defenses honest with 37 rushing attempts of his own in those contests.

Getting Williams involved offensively has been key for the Panthers. The redshirt senior out of Athens had only 31 carries in the team’s first five contests but has 32 carries for 241 yards and 4 touchdowns over the last three games, including the critical go-ahead 23-yard touchdown with 26 seconds left against the Eagles.

“That’s probably one of the most exciting [touchdowns] I’ve ever had,” Williams said to media after the game. 

Williams currently has the tenth most rushing yards in the Sun Belt and is among the conference’s most efficient runners at 6.7 yards per carry.

Not bad for a former SEC cornerback.

Georgia State’s defensive unit has stepped up in a big way as well. After failing to intercept a pass through the first five games, they have four in their last three games, including two in the red zone off the Eagles’ Justin Tomlin.

The Panthers also had two critical stops on fourth down, one made five yards from their own end zone. Then late in the game, redshirt senior linebacker Jhi’Shawn Taylor sacked Tomlin in the backfield as time expired to seal a Georgia State victory.

“I thought it was a fitting way to end the football game the way our defense played all night,” head coach Shawn Elliot said after the game.

This wasn’t the first time the Panthers’ defensive unit has stepped up this season. It may in fact be the new norm.

In the final minute against Texas State, defensive end Shamar McCollum vanquished a potential Bobcat comeback with a forced fumble at the GSU 12. This was the second of two forced turnovers that helped hold Texas State to only three points in the second half. The Bobcats drove the ball thrice past the GSU 30, but the Panthers’ defense bent only once.

While the offense was the big story against the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks, the defense kept putting the ball back in their hands during the 55-21 victory, forcing five punts, two turnovers and a turnover on downs.

With two ranked Sun Belt opponents coming up, the Panthers certainly have their work cut out for them. But if they can continue to pound the ball and be aggressive on defense, we could be in for a pleasant surprise. 

Georgia State’s next game will feature a conference foe. They’ll travel to Coastal Carolina to take on the No. 22 Chanticleers, who will not have their standout quarterback Grayson McCall for the 2:00 p.m. EST Sun Belt matchup. If the Panthers win, it’s an upset, but also a fourth straight win for a team that seemed lost just a month ago.