When Dan Ellington’s pass sailed incomplete and the Panthers turned it over on downs with 2:25 left in the game, a good number of fans headed for the exit. The fans that stayed got their money’s worth, and then some.
In his first career start, Dan Ellington led a 9-play, 73-yard drive culminating with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Diondre Champaigne for the go-ahead score.
KSU Owls came swinging and ready to play. The Owls forced a quick three-and-out and drove down the field on an 11-play 86-yard drive, capping it off with a 5-yard touchdown run by Shaquil Terry. KSU and GSU exchanged punts before a promising drive at the end of the quarter got cut short due to a fumble. KSU 7, GSU 0
After the turnover, the Owls inflicted another gradual clock-killing drive, with two 4th down conversions. The drive ended with a 23-yard touchdown pass to Justin Sumpter to give the Owls a 14-0 lead. The two teams exchanged punts once more before GSU got the ball back with 5:56 remaining in the half and a chance to get back in the game before halftime. With completions to Christian Owens and Penny Hart, the Panthers aerial attack (as well as some nifty scrambling by Ellington) drove them down the field. Penny Hart took a pop pass into the end zone to put the Panthers on the board.
With less than a minute remaining, most fans thought that KSU would run out the clock and take their lead into halftime, but Coach Bohannon decided to play boldly and call a pass on the first play of the drive. Chandler Burks (who up until then was playing a fantastic game) threw an errant pass into triple coverage that was picked off by GSU safety DeAndre Applin and returned to the Kennesaw 37. The Panthers took advantage of the great field position and it only took two quick passes for them to get into the red zone. The Owl Defense fired back when Anthony Gore Jr. made a sack on the QB that forced the Panthers to use their 2nd timeout. A defensive PI put the Panthers back in the red zone but time was running out. Coach Sean Elliot made a bold call of his own, sending out the offense with only eight seconds remaining and no timeouts. It paid of as Ellington connected with South Carolina transfer Christian Owens to tie the game up. KSU 14, GSU 14
The second half showed just how effective the flexbone offense can be in draining the clock. The Owls got the ball back to start the second half and proceeded on a 16-play drive, bleeding the clock and keeping the ball away from the Panthers for half of the third quarter. The defense tightened up in the red zone and forced a field goal to put the Owls back in the lead. KSU’s defense came up big again forcing a three and out, giving it back to their offense for another clock-draining drive. Driving all the way from the GSU 2-yard line. A false start and a pass breakup by cornerback Cedric Stone kept the Owls out of the end zone, forcing them to settle for another field goal. KSU 20, GSU 14
In a drive that started at the end of the third, Dan Ellington ran the offense like a well oiled machine to get his team in a 1st and goal position to retake the lead. The KSU defense railled again and came up with a clutch sack on third down to force a field goal and make it a one score game with 10 minutes remaining. The Owls offense returned to the field hoping to put the game out of reach with a score. A pair of slashing runs by their A-Backs, as well as an ill-timed penalty, gave them the ball in the redzone looking to put the game on ice. But the Panther defense refused to quit. Defensive end Terry Thomas forced a fumble by B-Back Jake McKenzie and the Panthers retook possession with 6:25 to go. Ellington was able to pick up two first downs with his feet and seemed to convert a 4th down play until it was called back for a holding penalty, making it 4th and 13. The KSU D-line got pressure on Ellington once more and forced a bad pass that lead to a turnover on downs at the GSU 36 with 2:25 left on the clock. A fraction of Panther fans decided to pack it up and head home. The ones who decided to stay got their money’s worth and more. The Panther defense stood strong and refused to give the Owls the first down they needed to put the game away. After a loss of four on third down the Owls declined a field goal attempt and decided to go for it on fourth down. The pass to Justin Sumpter was one yard short of the 1st down marker. The Panther got the ball back with 2:01 remaining and no timeouts left. It was more than Ellington needed.
With passes to Hart and Owens, the Panthers drove down the field into KSU territory. A defensive holding call gave GSU a 1st and 10 at the 11 yard line. Ellington capped off the clutch drive with a beautiful fade route to the corner of the end zone by Diondre Champaigne(his first and only catch of the game), with 0:41 seconds remaining on the clock. With momentum on their side the Panther defense got a sack to force the Owls to use their last timeout. They failed to convert the first down in the next three plays, returning the ball to the Panthers and allowing them to take a knee and begin the season 1-0.
Final Score: KSU 20, GSU 24
What We Learned
Dan Ellington has the IT factor
In the Post-Game press conference Coach Elliot said that Danterious Ellington “willed” the team to victory. It certainly showed on offense. RBs were by committee and couldn’t get a consistent pace going, the O-line was not at their best and Ellington was constantly pressured in the pocket but his mobility and focus elevated the play of his teammates around him. All of the Panthers touchdown drives came at the end of the half showing Ellington has a clutch factor and can make plays when the game’s on the line.
Defense Will Fight for Four Quarters
After a shaky start in the first half the defense settled down and didn’t allow another touchdown in the second half. They also made several crucial 4th down stops and forced a turnover in the red zone. Look for them to keep improving as the season moves forward.
KSU isn’t far behind
Despite being one of the newest football programs in the state of Georgia, the Owls came into an unfamiliar environment and almost pulled off the upset. Last year they made it to the quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs in only their third year of existence. This program may be young but they don’t see that as a reason not to have success. I wouldn’t be surprised if they got an invite to join a conference like the Sun Belt or C-USA five years from now.
Player of the Game
Danterious Ellington - 20/28 187 Passing yds, 3 TDs, 77 rushing yds
The Panthers gear up for a tough out-of-conference slate as they prepare to face the NC State WolfPack in Raleigh next Saturday.