Georgia State struggles early, but overcomes Furman shootout

GSU football team rushes for the ball
Georgia State Panthers beat the Furman Paladins 48-42 Saturday, launching their season with a 2-0 record. Photo by Matt Siciliano-Salazar | The Signal


Georgia State relied on a record-setting performance by Dan Ellington to survive against the Furman Paladins 48-42 in front of a packed house at Georgia State Stadium.

“It has been an incredible seven days,” head coach Shawn Elliott said. “It was a total team effort, even though it was not sharp.”

Mirroring Georgia State’s start against Tennessee last weekend, the Paladins began the game strong, looking to send an early message. 

After quarterback Darren Grainger found Thomas Gordon down the middle for 36 yards, the team found the endzone a few plays later. Grainger completed an 18-yard pass to Ryan Miller for the score. The extra point attempt was blocked, but it was a nightmare start for the Panthers’ defense.

Ellington and the offense took the field needing a quick response. The senior was on fire, completing five passes in a row to put the team on Furman’s 11-yard line. An unsportsmanlike penalty on Shamarious Gilmore halted the team’s drive, though, and Elliott had to settle for a field goal.

“You can’t do that,” Elliott said when discussing the penalty. “Football is a very, very emotional game and I understand that, but to accomplish the things necessary to be a good football team, we can’t do that.”

Furman continued their first quarter showcase on the following drive. Grainger completed a 32-yard pass to Gordon, who laid out to make a stellar diving catch, extending the Paladins’ lead to 13-3.

Trailing 20-3, the Panthers’ defense desperately needed a stop. The Paladins had the ball at midfield with 9:12 to go in the second quarter, but were held. The play rejuvenated those on the Georgia State sideline.

The offense capitalized on the momentum shift. After escaping an interception, Tra Barnett scored an 18-yard touchdown run and revived the home crowd.

On their next drive, the Panthers scored again and changed the game. Ellington found Terrance Dixon for a 10-yard score with two second remaining in the half. Dixon gave every ounce of strength he had, dragging a couple Paladins defenders into the endzone with him. 

Play time looked to be over as the second half got underway. Ellington marched his offense down the field, eventually finding Sam Pinckney with a 26-yard pass for the score. The Panthers took a 24-20 lead, their first of the game.

After Furman went three-and-out, the momentum was well and truly in the Panthers’ hands. The offense flew downfield and found themselves five yards away from another touchdown. Ellington found Roger Carter for a two-yard score and the Panthers blew the scoreline open. 

The Paladins refused to give in, however. Grainger continued his heroics, finding Ryan DeLuca in the endzone with an 11-yard pass. The team converted a clever two point conversion to draw within a field goal at the 2:44 mark in the third quarter.

Ellington, playing through a pain barrier, answered. The senior found Aubry Payne for a 20-yard touchdown to give the Panthers a 38-28 cushion at the end of the third quarter. 

The shootout continued on the ensuing drive, as Grainger found Devin Abrams for a 30-yard touchdown to make the score 38-35 with 13:41 left in the game. The Panthers’ secondary, much like last season, was torn to pieces.

After Ellington threw his fifth touchdown of the night, setting a school record, Remy Lazarus made perhaps the most important play of the night, intercepting a pass from DeLuca and running it all the way back to the Furman 15-yard line. 

The offense had to settle for a field goal. Wright was on target yet again, nailing a clutch 38-yard field goal to inch the Panthers closer to a nerve-wracking victory.

Furman continued to fight, but time was inevitably their worst enemy. When it was all said and done, the Panthers were victorious. The 48-42 scoreline was not a convincing one, but it was just enough to improve the Panthers to 2-0 on the season.

“We faced adversity,” Elliott said. “We didn’t fold. We didn’t flinch. We really struck back.”