Panther Defense Crowns a Homecoming Win

The Panthers defensive line attempts to block a Ball State field goal. Photo by Dayne Francis | The Signal
"They're coached well and they've got good players." -Coach Miles on the Georgia State defense. Photo by Rashad Milligan | The Signal
“They’re coached well and they’ve got good players.” -Coach Miles on the Georgia State defense.
Photo by Rashad Milligan | The Signal

Injuries are part of the game and every team adopts a “next man up” mentality. The Panthers have been no stranger to the injury bug this season and led to an unexpected change in the starting lineup for Georgia State Homecoming.

Jerome Smith, the redshirt sophomore cornerback who has recorded three interceptions in 2016, missed the homecoming game with an injury to his hand. Junior cornerback B.J. Clay steps in and stepped up in a big way recording two interceptions including a pick six returned for 38 yards.

Sophomore defensive end Marterious Allen created a few defensive fireworks of his own. In the third quarter during UT Martin’s third drive of the second half, redshirt senior linebacker Kaleb Ringer forced a fumble recovered by Allen who put up 7 points of his own.

Also padding the stats on a tremendous day for the Panther defense are junior linebacker Trey Payne who recorded his first interception of the season and sophomore Michael Shaw who had 7 solo tackles including two for a loss.

The Panther defense would score a total of 14 points and limit the Skyhawk’s to 320 yards and two field goals the entire game. Coach Miles couldn’t have been more proud of how his defense has come together while the offense continues to move the ball and put its own points on the board.

“The mark of a good football team is when the offense is struggling, the defense and special teams picks it up for them,” head coach Trent Miles said following the homecoming win. “We lost our starting quarterback on Thursday, but they played together as a team. The defense had some scores. Offense had some scores, and we won the game.”

Ah yes. That takes me to the next man who had to step up.

Also out for the Panthers for homecoming was Conner Manning, who injured his throwing arm in practice on Thursday. Aaron Winchester, the redshirt freshman backup quarterback for the Panthers, would get the call start in the Georgia Dome in front of the homecoming crowd.

Winchester moved the team down the field the first half of the game with drives of 55 and 51 but only managing seven points. The first drive stalled at the UT Martin two-yard line after the Panthers failed to convert or score on fourth down. The second was capped off with a 7-yard pass to junior wide receiver Glenn Smith to put the Panthers on the board first.

As Coach Miles pointed out, the Panther offense would struggle mightily. In fact, the entire second half, Georgia State moved the sticks for a first down only four times out of 13 total the entire game.

Winchester would finish the game completing only eight of 16 pass attempts and lead the team in rushing with 82 yards. Using the redshirt freshman’s legs was all part of the plan with little time to prepare the young quarterback for UT Martin.

“That’s his skill set. Aarons a really good runner and I think he proved that out there,” Miles said of the redshirt freshman’s performance adding that he realizes that Winchester has a lot to learn but he did a pretty good job with very little time to prepare.

Overall, Miles was happy with his team’s homecoming performance.

“I’m proud of the way they performed today in what could have been a tough situation, losing your starting quarterback basically the day before the game. That’s a good football team we beat. They almost won at Hawai’i, they went to Cincinnati and had a chance to win that game, and they’re going to win a bunch of games in their conference.”

With the Panthers 31-6 win at home over the Skyhawk’s now in the books, Georgia State improves to 2-5 on the season and will now prepare for a critical stretch of five conference games starting with a trip to Mobile, Alabama against the South Alabama Jaguars.