What did we learn about Georgia State in week one?

Georgia State defense lines up against Louisiana La-Fayette during the home opener at Center Parc Stadium. Photo by Matt Siciliano-Salazar | The Signal

Even at Center Parc Stadium, the Panthers did not expect to compete against No. 19 Louisiana-Lafayette, but Shawn Elliott’s men did, and nearly upset the Ragin Cajuns Saturday afternoon. 

While Georgia State lost in overtime 34-31, there were encouraging signs from Saturday’s opener.

1. Destin Coates is destined for success 

With the departure of running back Tra Barnett, many fans weren’t sure if the Panthers running game would suffer, but week one would prove doubters wrong. Brad Glenn’s offense ran for 223 yards, averaging nearly five per carry.

In particular, running back Destin Coates had a career day and rushed for 150 of those 223 to go along with a touchdown. From a mental standpoint, the junior also provided a spark for his teammates when they fell behind.

“Throughout the game, I just kept encouraging my guys,” Coates said. “We’ve been watching film on [Louisiana-Lafayette], and they’re a really great team and told my guys we gotta keep going.”

The running game was also able to keep the talented Cajuns offense off the field, especially in the first half. 

Georgia State’s 30-plus minutes of possession was thanks mainly to the running game, which also took the pressure off of quarterback Cornelius “Quad” Brown when he struggled early. These were key for an early Panthers lead.

For the Panthers to rebound and build off this game, the running game will have to do the offense’s bull work.

2. The defense is much better than the 2019-20 team’s

Hear me out: they may have given up 34, but the Panthers defense did make strides. 

While Nate Fuqua’s defense gave up 519 yards of total offense, Georgia State held firm on third downs and forced turnovers. 

Last season’s team scored at will but never forced a turnover or performed well on third downs. 

Head coach Shawn Elliott was impressed with the Panther defense and alluded to the lackadaisical defense.

“We got a little worn down,” Elliott said. “We are a smaller and quicker bunch, and they [could] bust some long runs.”

However, the Panthers looked to have turned a corner on the defensive front. The Panthers had one sack and eight tackles for loss, which would’ve been a shock last season.

The Panthers held the Cajuns offense to 67yards well into the first quarter, showing growth. The biggest issue going forward for the defense will be limiting big plays by the offense.

When the Panthers had a shot at getting the Cajuns off the field on a crucial third down in the third quarter, Cajuns’ running back Elijah Mitchell took into the house for a 20-yard score. That cannot happen if the Panthers look to compete for the Sun Belt Conference crown.

3. The Panthers lack a killer instinct

When Georgia State had the ball deep in Cajun territory with a minute to go in regulation, many in attendance thought they were going for the win. 

Deciding to play for overtime, the Panthers took a game penalty delay with 49 seconds remaining. After their actions, they were showered with boos from the fans following the coaching staff’s decision.

Georgia State’s choice to not go for the win in regulation will have to change in the future. 

Playing talented teams such as Appalachian State and Georgia Southern, the Panthers can’t afford to play these more talented teams in overtime and give them extra scoring opportunities. The Panthers have shown they can keep up with the big boys; now, they have to demonstrate they can pass them out, too.

4. The rise of Quad Brown

The Panthers knew it would be an uphill battle to replace the production and presence of former quarterback Dan Ellington (now an offensive assistant coach with the team). 

After getting off to a rocky start, Brown began to look more comfortable under center. He finished the game with a solid outing, throwing for 196 yards, one touchdown and an interception. Brown provided a running threat as well, rushing for an additional 64 yards and a touchdown. 

Brown showing poise as the game went on demonstrates that he will grow into the starter the Panthers need for the future.

“[Brown] can lead us and carry us,” Coates said. “That’s something we can definitely feed off throughout the season.

5. The offensive line is still elite

Last year, now-Atlanta Falcons left tackle Hunter Atikison led the offensive line. 

Despite his departure, the Panthers returned many veterans to the line, including preseason All-Sun Belt lineman and captain Shamarious Gilmore. The senior from Riverdale picked up right where he left off, opening space and making life easy for running backs, and kept enough pressure from his freshman quarterback. 

Exceptional Sun Belt teams, such as Appalachian State and Georgia Southern, will test this line, and they are up for the challenge.

The fact that the line has so much experience is a benefit to the younger players on offense. Brown will have the benefits firsthand as he navigates the ins and outs of a new-look offense in the backfield.

While the Panthers suffered a gut punch from the first game, there is much to look forward too. This group could be the most talented of any in the program’s short history.