What Happened to Georgia State Football?

Photo courtesy of Georgia State Athletics

The Panthers have gotten off to a pretty rough start this season with a disappointing 2-4 record. This isn’t too far off from its 1-4 record last year where Georgia State ended its season successfully with the 51-20 decimation against Ball State in the Camelia Tax Act Bowl. Can Georgia State turn this season around and tally another accomplished season ending with a bowl game trophy?

The Panthers’ overall performance this season has been a bit staggering due to difficulties at every level of the program. Head Coach Shawn Elliot has expressed his frustrations, revealing that he felt “sick” regarding his team’s performances. “It was poorly executed starting right here at the top. It starts with myself, it goes to our assistant coaches, it goes down to those captains, it goes down to our seniors, it goes down to everyone in that locker room.” Elliot said.

Georgia State’s overall play has become a major problem as Georgia State has been penalized 34 times already throughout the season, tied for 103rd nationally. “Some of our penalties have been foolish, and right there at the end of the game you go down there and you take the lead and then we get an unsportsmanlike conduct,” Elliot said. 

On the offensive side of the ball, the team has greatly improved since last season, increasing from 389.6 yards per game to 419.8. Much of this improvement has to do with quarterback Darren Grainger’s development, who has made substantial plays through the air as he seems more confident in his throws as they’re being delivered deeper and more accurate. In relation, the increase in passing attempts has made clear the coaches are more confident in the 22-year-old senior. 

This was perceived in the week three matchup against Charlotte, where Grainger completed a 73-yard pass to receiver Jamari Thrash which set up a two-yard touchdown from running back Tucker Gregg. The glaring issue with the offense has been the lost possessions due to turnovers. Currently, they are tied at 80th in the country with seven turnovers, four interceptions and three fumbles lost. Luckily, the defense has been able to match this, tied at 36th with seven takeaways, five interceptions and two fumble recoveries.

Presently, the team ranks 113rd in total defense according to the official statistics listed by the NCAA, giving up an astounding 435.8 yards per game and 38.3 points per game. Comparing these numbers to last season’s, where the team finished at 75th in total defense giving up 402.9 yards per game and 27 points per game. Their biggest problem lies within the secondary giving up 8.74 yards per pass and 295 passing yards per game. 

Blown coverage and miscommunication has greatly affected this veteran secondary, giving up big plays downfield and not being able to show up effectively in the short passing game. They have shown that they can play at a higher level given their production a season ago, however, they haven’t lived up to the standards they set last season. The standout for the defensive backfield has been cornerback Quavian White, who showcased his athletic ability in week one against South Carolina picking off quarterback Spencer Rattler twice. White currently leads the team in interceptions with three, tying his career-high set in 2020. In the defensive run game,  Georgia State ranks 119th, they’ve shown better production; allowing 4.5 yards per carry and 197.6 yards per game, compared to last year, where they ranked 40th, letting up 141 yards per game. 

In a seemingly endless pit of problems for the defense, another drawback that needs to be addressed is allowing opposing teams to convert third downs at a whopping 46.3%, which is 117th in the nation. Not where you want to be when you’re attempting to contend for a bowl game. Georgia State has shown a lack of ferocity and productivity on the defensive side of the ball, “It’s a lack of intensity if you ask me. A lot of the time you can look at them, and their ready to play, but some of them would rather push than play,”  Elliot said. 

Sean Elliot’s squad still has time to return to the contenders they were expected to be prior to the season but it’s time for this Panther’s team to gain a sense of urgency with eight games left in the season.