Offensive masterclass helps Georgia State record 52-38 win over Arkansas State

Georgia State spirit teams are a vital part of keeping the fans and the team excited, especially during Homecoming games. Photo by Unique Rodriguez | The Signal

On a much-needed cooler, windy evening in Atlanta, the Georgia State Panthers entered Saturday’s Homecoming game in desperate need of a win. Coming off defeats to Western Michigan and Texas State, the Arkansas State matchup was arguably a must-win.

Dan Ellington had a career-best 382-yard passing performance and Destin Coates, fresh off his breakout performance against Texas State, added three rushing touchdowns of his own to help the team earn a 52-38 victory.

The Panthers got off to a dream start. After winning the coin toss, Elliott’s men elected to receive the ball first. Ellington and his offense wasted no time. The Panthers quickly found themselves in the lead. Tra Barnett’s three-yard touchdown run electrified the crowd and helped the team make an early statement of intent.

Looking to capitalize on the early momentum, the defense, which has been a major worry in the past few weeks, also found a dream start. Terry Thomas’ key tackle on third down helped the unit record a confidence-building three-and-out. The Georgia State sideline was fired up. 

After the defense recorded its second straight stop of the quarter, Ellington marched his men down the field, hoping to put the momentum to good use. With the ball on Arkansas State’s 37-yard line, coach Elliott made his first major play call of the afternoon. On fourth-and-two, the Panthers went for it. Ellington’s six-yard run was more than enough for the first down as the first quarter came to an end.

Soon after, Destin Coates found the endzone. The sophomore running back scampered home from 27-yards out to help give the Panthers a 14-0 lead.

Seth Paige became the third Georgia State running back to find the endzone on the ensuing drive. The Panthers passing game was on full display during the 80-yard drive, as the team took a 21-0 lead with 8:56 to go in the first half. 

In desperate need of a response, Arkansas State found themselves on the Georgia State 33-yard line after a 42-yard catch by Jonathan Adams. Two plays later, Blake Anderson’s men solidified the drive. Quarterback Layne Hatcher found Kirk Merritt from 24-yards out to make the score 21-7 and pull back within two scores.

Brandon Wright, who missed two key field goals against Texas State, confidently kicked a 43-yard field goal through the uprights on the following possession, pushing the Panthers’ lead to 24-7.

The Arkansas State offense was beginning to feel itself, though. Hatcher found Omar Bayless with a 46-yard pass to begin the ensuing drive and Marcel Murray found the endzone with a 28-yard run two plays later. The home crowd began to show a bit of nerves.

Ellington helped calm those nerves on the next drive. The first half had developed into a shootout of epic proportions. The senior found Sam Pinckney with an 11-yard pass to push the Panthers lead to 31-14 with 1:38 to go. 

The Red Wolves continued to click on all cylinders, though. Hatcher found Merritt in the endzone to make the score 31-21. The half soon came to a close.

The Panthers made a high-flying start to the second half proceedings. Ellington capped off a six-play, 90-yard drive with a 10-yard running touchdown to improve the team’s lead to 38-21. 

A few minutes later, the defense re-gained their swagger. Jonathan Ifedi recorded an interception, sending Elliott and the Georgia State sideline into a jubilant celebration. 

Penalties halted the Panthers next drive, however, and the team was unable to capitalize on the newfound second half momentum.

As the third quarter came to an end, Arkansas State had clawed their way back to a ten point, 38-28 deficit. The Panthers’ secondary was beginning to show signs of serious leaks, yet again.

The Red Wolves, who continued to battle, found the endzone with 10:30 to go and made the score 38-35. Suddenly, the atmosphere was sucked out of Georgia State Stadium. Belief began to resonate from the Arkansas State sideline. Was a dramatic comeback on the cards?

Elliott’s men ensured that was not the case. Ellington, who’s leadership and poise shined throughout the contest, led his offensive unit on an eight-play, 75-yard drive, eventually ending with a one-yard score from Coates. The score set up a grandstand finish for those who remained inside the stadium.

The Red Wolves refused to go down without a fight, but the clock was their ultimate downfall. After a 44-yard field goal by Blake Grupe cut the deficit to 45-38, Barnett all but sealed the contest. The senior’s two carries, including a 56-yard burst, led to the game-winning touchdown, courtesy of Destin Coates, who scored his third touchdown of the contest. 

The 52-38 win revived what was beginning to feel like another lost season for many.