“It’s hard to compete with that guy”: Panthers’ early season struggles continue with loss to UNC

Photo by Harry Wyman | The Signal

Georgia State came into Kenan Memorial Stadium on Saturday with ambitions of upsetting Sam Howell and the No. 24 North Carolina Tar Heels.  Later that night, they got on their plane after a 59-17 one-sided loss.

“It’s hard to make light of a situation like (the game). During the course of the game, there were times where I really thought that both lines of scrimmage were controlled by us,” Elliott said.

Halftime looked like there was a little hope when the Panthers trailed 24-10 after a pair of Sam Howell touchdowns, including a Howell 57-yard dime to Antoine Green midway through the first quarter.

“When we got into the second quarter, I was really pleased. We were playing with momentum, we were playing with effort, enthusiasm. There was a great look in their eye,” Georgia State head coach Shawn Elliott said. 

Then, Howell North Carolina controlled the second half, using a 403-131 total yards advantage to outscore the Panthers 35-7. 

Photo by Harry Wyman | The Signal

The Panthers run-focused offense averaged just four yards on 45 carries. They also rushed for 181 yards and passed for 90. The longest run of the night came from backup quarterback Darren Grainger, who broke off late in the fourth quarter for a 36-yard run with 8:19 to go in the fourth. After a replay review confirmed Grainger was out at the two-yard line, Marcus Carroll found the end zone for six points.

Howell finished the game with 456 total yards and five touchdowns, including 104 yards and two scores with his legs. He’ll most likely be the most talented quarterback anyone on the Panthers’ defense sees in their college careers. After the game, Elliott talked about the challenge to prepare for such a player.

“There’s a reason why he has the talk of being the top quarterback in college football and being the top pick in the NFL Draft. It’s hard to compete with that guy,” Elliott said. “If you’re not assigned and aligned, you’ve got no chance to defend. And there were times tonight where we had no chance to defend.”

Photo by Harry Wyman | The Signal

Elliott described the first two games as “embarrassing,” but there were a few bright spots that gave the team some life Saturday. Georgia State marched 75 yards down the field for a touchdown midway through the second quarter in their most impressive drive of the young season so far. After Cornelious Brown led the offense into Tar Heel territory, Tucker Gregg saved the drive with a crucial six-yard run on fourth down leading to Brown’s four-yard score. 

“Any time you can take a possession and go 17 plays, drive the length of the football field, that tells you that you have a consistent push up from your offensive line. In that drive right there, we handled the line of scrimmage pretty well. I think we were able to run the football effectively, and that gives us manageable down and distances. During that drive, that’s exactly what we did. We were able to punch it in and gain some momentum.”

The loss puts head coach Elliott and the Panthers at 0-2 this season and a point differential of -75. The fourth-year head coach talked about where his team stands Saturday night after the game.

Photo by Harry Wyman | The Signal

On Saturday, the Panthers face the Charlotte 49ers for a 7 p.m. week three showdown as the team looks to win their first game of the season.