The first three weeks of the season haven’t gone as planned. Considering how the Panthers finished last season, I am sure nobody in the program would have expected an 0-3 start. Ball State and Air Force are teams that many felt Georgia State had a good chance at beating, but the Panthers under performed in both games.
Wisconsin was a completely different story. Virtually no one gave Georgia State a chance at beating the Badgers. To be fair, why would they? Georgia State looked outmatched against two lesser opponents than Wisconsin.
Heading into the game, I stated that it was gut check time for the panthers. Boy did they step up to the plate! Georgia State gave Wisconsin everything they could handle. In fact the Panthers were leading the Badgers 17-14, early in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately Wisconsin ended winning 23-17, but the performance boosted morale among Panther fans. Georgia State was much improved against the run, holding the Badgers to 187 yards. Conner Manning moved the offense effectively, throwing for 269 yards and 1 touchdown.
- Was Georgia State’s performance against Wisconsin an anomaly, or can we expect that level of execution from here on out? I think it’s a sign of improvement, however I am not getting my hopes up just yet. Offensively I think we are moving in the right direction. Defensively we were able to load up the box to stop the run because of Wisconsin’s inability to stretch the field vertically. However, when Hornibrook entered the game he took advantage of those one-on-one - on the edge.
- Can the Panthers find a running game? I think it’s important to note that Air Force (3), Wisconsin (13), and Ball State (14), all rank in the top 15 in rushing defense. Considering that I think with the offensive line playing better, Georgia State should be able to open up some running lanes. If Manning continues to play well, defense won’t be able to dedicate as many people to the box, which should also help.
- Will Glenn Smith remain at wide receiver? I sure as heck hope so. Smith was originally recruited as a WR, but injuries on the team last year forced him to play running back. Smith was more effective at wide receiver than he was in the back field. In his first game back at his original position, Smith posted five catches for 131 yards. That’s an average of 26.2 yards per catch. Georgia State could use more explosive plays and Smith provides that at wide-out.
- Can Georgia State cause more negative plays on defense? As it currently stands, Georgia State ranks 127th in tackles for loss with 5 and 112th in sacks with two. If the Panthers plan on turning the season around, they will need to be much more disruptive on defense. It starts upfront. Out of those 5 tfls, only one was registered by a defensive lineman and neither of the two sacks came from a defensive lineman.
- Can the Panthers improve on third down? Georgia State has only converted on 37.50% of their third down attempts. That must improve. The Panthers are actually very good in the red zone the problem is they do not get there enough. The Panthers are 6 for 6 in red zone trips, 5 out of those 6 were touchdowns. Georgia State must run the ball better on first and second down, to get themselves into more manageable third down situations.
Panthers safety, Bobby Baker was named Sun Belt defensive player of the week for his performance against Wisconsin last week.