Despite gaining more offensive yards and committing less turnovers than their host, the Georgia State Panthers were unable to pull the upset against the South Carolina Gamecocks. They lost 35-14 in each team’s first game of the 2022 regular season.
The Gamecocks and Panthers matched each other almost step for step on paper, but GSU found itself incapable to move the ball into enemy territory and thereby unable to create legitimate scoring opportunities. The Panthers crossed the fifty on only five of their fifteen possessions; they scored on two and turned the ball over the other three.
The nail in the coffin for GSU, however, came on special teams. SCAR blocked not one but two Panther punts and returned both for touchdowns as the game’s final two scores.
“We can’t have those special teams mistakes,” GSU head coach Shawn Elliott said post-game. “It’s unacceptable.”
As many anticipated the Gamecocks relied on the arm of Oklahoma transfer QB Spencer Rattler. Rattler finished his debut 23-for-37 through the air for 227 yards but threw just one touchdown and was picked off twice; both times by Quavian White.
White broke up an additional pass from Rattler, sacked him once, and made one more tackle behind the line.
GSU QB Darren Grainger had much the opposite type of day. He went just 7-for-29, but thanks to a late 44-yard reception to Jamari Thrash finished the day with 111 yards. From about mid-way through the third quarter to the final five minutes of the fourth, Grainger had a stretch of 11 straight incompletions.
The Panthers were much more consistent rushing the ball, finishing with exactly 200 rushing yards as a team. Grainger split carries almost equally with RBs Jamyest Williams and Tucker Gregg. Williams, formerly a defensive back for the Gamecocks, led either team in touches and yards with a 76-on-13 day. Over half of those yards came on the second play of the game, a 41-yard rush that brought the Panthers to the cusp of the redzone; they failed a fourth-down conversion on SCAR’s 8-yard line later that drive.
Despite the three-score margin at the end of the game Georgia State, 12.5 point underdogs per DraftKings, were down just six before their special teams fiascos. Their ability to play two-and-a-half quarters of competitive football against an SEC opponent is enough to create long-term optimism. Next week, the Panthers host North Carolina (2-0) at noon Eastern on Saturday, Sept. 10.
The Gamecocks played very solidly, especially on the defensive side. Rattler’s two interceptions do raise eyebrows, as does the team’s 79 total rushing yards and its inability to score an offensive touchdown in the final 22 minutes. Next week the Gamecocks visit week one’s #19 team Arkansas (1-0) for each side’s first in-conference game. That matchup begins at noon Eastern on Saturday, Sept. 10.