It was suppose to be a celebration day at Georgia State Stadium. The Panthers announced that the inaugural game would be a sellout at the facility formerly known as Turner Field. They were welcoming FCS Tennessee State and were going to cruise in Shawn Elliott’s debut.
That did not happen. Tennessee State just had other plans.
Rod Reed’s club dominated for the entire 60 minutes in the Tigers’ 17-10 road upset over Georgia State. Behind Florida transfer Treon Harris’ 236 total yards (145 passing, 91 rushing) the Tigers controlled the contest for the entire night.
It all started in the first half as Tennessee State dominated from the jump as they went into halftime with a 10-3 lead and a 247-83 total yards advantage. If it wasn’t for Georgia State’s first half redzone defense this could’ve turned into a rout. The Tigers had four possessions in the redzone and only came away with 10 first half points. Kicker Lane Clark would finish the night one-for-three with his only make coming from 18 yards out.
It appeared that Georgia State dodged a bullet and could regroup at halftime with some adjustments. In their first possession, it appeared that Panthers were starting to establish a rhythm as Conner Manning completed a couple of passes. Then facing a third-and-one at the Tennessee State 47, running back Cullen Neal was stuffed. The remix on fourth down looked even worse.
After forcing a quick punt by TSU, GSU received the ball back and tight end Ari Werts produced a huge 59-yard play up the seam to get the Panthers into scoring range. A few plays later, Travis Trickett’s offense would find itself inside the five and facing a fourth and one. Once again they would go to Neal and he would be stuffed again. And this would be the momentum turn.
Tennessee State would go on a 96-yard drive for six powered by a Seth Rowland 62-yard run that would get the Tigers inside the GSU 40. A few play later, Treon Harris would run it in from 12 yards out on third down to give TSU a 17-3 lead. Then the wheels would officially fall off for Elliott’s Panthers.
The next drive, Manning would take a brutal hit and would be knocked out of the game. He would be replaced by dual-threat redshirt sophomore Aaron Winchester and it would get ugly rather quickly. In his first full drive, the turnover bug would bite the Panthers. On a speed option, a bad pitch by Winchester caused an awkward catch by running back Taz Bateman and as soon ascontact arrived, the ball would immediately be coughed up.
Winchester would show some signs of life as he would hit Bateman on a swing pass on fourth and four to connect for a 36-yard touchdown to cut the lead to one possession. However, the good plays would be short lived. The next drives would result in a three-and-out, a fumble lost by Winchester on a read option action, and a interception to close out the game.
For the night, TSU would outgain GSU by a count of 383-273. The Tigers were plus four in the turnover margin and had possession of the ball for nearly 35 minutes. They had a 21-to-14 advantaged on first downs. They put up 238 yards on the ground compared to GSU’s 49. It was total domination in an FCS-FBS match-up and it was done by the team from the lower ranks.
Shawn Elliott has his work cut out for him.