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Georgia State Upset #22 Coastal Carolina 42-40 in Conway

The Panthers secured their first win against a ranked opponent in their twelve year history

NCAA Football: Georgia St. at Coastal Carolina David Yeazell-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time in program history, the Georgia State Panthers beat an opponent ranked in the AP Top 25 after they defeated Sun Belt rival #22 Coastal Carolina 42-40 on Saturday night. Georgia State held a lead for most of the game, but briefly fell behind in a fourth quarter that included two touchdowns from either team. The Panthers scored two touchdowns on two consecutive drives in the final period and stopped Coastal on what would have been a game-tying two-point conversion and its penalty-induced retry all within the final five minutes of play.

“This is the first ever win against a top-25 team,” head coach Shawn Elliott said post-game, “[Coastal Carolina] has been ranked for 22-consecutive weeks and our Georgia State football team came out here and played a marvelous game.”

Georgia State played two other ranked teams earlier this season, #16 Auburn and #24 Louisiana. It lost to Auburn off a debatable no-catch call and fell to Louisiana by just four points.

“I don’t think they’re ranked any longer,” Elliott added.

NCAA Football: Georgia St. at Coastal Carolina David Yeazell-USA TODAY Sports

This game was Coastal Carolina’s homecoming game, but it was also a sort of homecoming for Georgia State’s QB Darren Grainger. Grainger grew up in Conway, SC and played high school football just fifteen minutes from Coastal’s stadium.

“I probably couldn’t even count how many family members I had there,” Grainger said, “Family, friends, there were so many people there.”

Grainger finished the game 18/24 passing with 198 yards and two touchdowns. He was sacked just once and continued a now-five-game streak without throwing an interception. Grainger also rushed for 29 yards on twelve attempts.

Georgia State is undefeated (5-0) when Grainger passes for at least 135 yards.

The Panthers’ nearly 200 air yards was accompanied by 175 rushing yards, split primarily between Jamyest Williams and Tucker Gregg with 82 and 67 yards respectively. Gregg, once exclusively a short distance goal line back, returned to his old ways; he scored all three of GSU’s ground touchdowns and combined seven yards on those scores.

Despite a strong offensive showing— the Chanticleers recorded 200+ yards both rushing and receiving— Coastal Carolina was unable to get the ball in the end zone when it was most crucial.

Following a GSU touchdown to go up extend the Panther lead to eight the Chanticleers needed to reach the end zone and hit on a two-point conversion in 2:36. GSU allowed a passing touchdown in blanket coverage after about a minute and a half but did still had the deck in its favor. A kick would do the Chants no good; CCU had to either convert the two-pointer to go to OT or fail and all but lose the game.

NCAA Football: Georgia St. at Coastal Carolina
GSU QB Darren Grainger
David Yeazell-USA TODAY Sports

“Chances are in our favor that they’re not going to go down and score and then get the two-point conversion,” Elliott said about feeling comfortable with an eight-point lead, “that’s just the odds. I don’t have the analytics, but I knew.”

Coastal’s first-choice two-point play was a leftward pass similar to their other ‘lob and pray’ plays close to the goal line this game. That pass from QB Bryce Carpenter was broken up… but GSU corner Jaylon Jones drew a pass interference flag. The accepted penalty allowed CCU another attempt, this time from the one.

The Chanticleers called on Shermari Jones to punch the ball in from close; Jones leads CCU in rushing yards and total touchdowns this season. Jones was met at the line, however, and an unsuccessful onside kick spelt victory for the Panthers.

This victory is the first by the Panthers against a ranked opponent in school history. GSU is now 5-5, 4-2 against Sun Belt opponents. It next hosts Arkansas State on November 20 for each teams’ penultimate game. That game kicks off at 2:00 pm.

Coastal, on the other hand, is dealing with their second loss in four games, the worst span of four games for the Chanticleers since 2019. Despite an 8-2 overall record CCU is tied with GSU for second in the Sun Belt East Division; GSU has the tie breaker due to head-to-head record. The Chanticleers will look to regain momentum at 1:00 pm on November 20 at home against Texas State.