For the fifth time this season, Georgia State turned a second half lead into a heart crushing defeat. The Panthers, now bowl ineligible at 4-7 with one game remaining, lost to Sun Belt rival James Madison 42-40 Saturday.
JMU struck first in the opening quarter, but could not find offensive momentum after that. In fact, thanks to fumbles returned for touchdowns by Javon Dennis and Terrell Gordon, GSU had as many defensive points in the first half as JMU did offensive.
Unfortunately for the Panthers, just 14 of the Panthers’ 34 first half points came from offensive touchdowns, and neither of those were from truly strong offensive drives.
This reliance on big plays and turnovers was quickly exploited in the second half. Every GSU drive in the back part of the game that did not end in punt or touchdown was a three-and-out.
The Dukes’ first half offensive struggles came despite the best efforts of QB Todd Centeio. Three weeks removed from a shoulder injury, Centeio completed all of his 13 first half attempts for 122 yards.
Centeio finished the game 21-for-27 with 247 yards and four touchdowns, but was responsible for the fumble that gave GSU their first points of the game.
Georgia State’s quarterback Darren Grainger was not nearly as effective. He only completed eight passes but did convert those into 176 yards.
It was an inability to rush, however, that truly held GSU back. As a team the Panthers rushed for just 81 yards, their second lowest total of the year. Grainger, the team’s second-highest rusher this season, contributed his lowest ground total in over a year and program rushing record holder Tucker Gregg added just 15 yards.
The Panthers loss is their seventh of the year, making them ineligible for a postseason game. This breaks a three-year bowl game streak and is just the second sub-.500 season under coach Shawn Elliott. GSU visits Marshall next week for its final game of the season.
The Dukes, on the other hand, have righted the ship after a three-game skid that spoiled their chances of an undefeated season. Because this is JMU’s first year in the FBS it is ineligible to appear in the Sun Belt Championship, but should the Dukes win at home against Coastal Carolina they would become the Sun Belt East champs, were they actually eligible for the official achievement.