The Georgia State Panthers earned bowl eligibility with a 20-17 win over Louisiana on the road Saturday night despite an injury scare to star quarterback Darren Grainger.
Grainger, on pace for a career-best season, left the game in the second quarter after taking a hard hit from Louisiana’s Amir McDaniel. He missed the final nine minutes of the first half after a brief visit to the medical tent, but returned to the game for the second half.
Grainger finished the game 17-for-22 for 211 yards and two touchdowns.
Louisiana scored their smallest point total all year, in large part due to the early struggles of redshirt freshman Zeon Chriss.
Chriss completed just 14 of his 28 passes, and was just 6-for-17 for 34 yards in the first half.
He did gain 119 rushing yards, but got no help – the rest of the Cajuns combined for 46 ground yards.
Chriss entered Saturday with the highest completion percentage in the Sun Belt and placed 11th in rushing yards.
Louisiana mounted a dangerous comeback in the late second half, and looked primed to win the game in the fourth. The Cajuns manufactured a 11-play, 73-yard drive up to the GSU seven-yard line, but Chriss threw an interception to Gavin Pringle in the end zone to end the game.
Pringle leads the Panthers in interceptions this season. He had a go-ahead pick six late against Rhode Island earlier this year.
Both of Grainger’s touchdown throws were to junior tight end Ahmon Green, who finished with 44 yards and four catches. Both stats are career highs for Green.
Alongside Green’s breakout was the continued breakout of GSU receiver Tailique Williams. Williams caught six passes for 81 yards, making him the Panthers’ leading receiver for a second week in a row.
Also impressive for Georgia State was Marcus Carroll. Carroll rushed for 110 yards, eclipsing the century mark for the fifth time this season, but ended an eight-game touchdown streak that began last season.
During the 14 plays Grainger missed, GSU put the ball in the hands of junior Mikele Colasurdo. Colasurdo completed his one pass attempt for three yards and ran twice for 13 yards and a touchdown, but was also sacked once.
Georgia State is now 6-1, 3-1 in-conference. It is the first team in the Sun Belt to become bowl eligible this season, and would play in the conference championship in place of James Madison if the season ended after Saturday’s game. The Panthers play their third primetime nationally televised game in a row Thursday, October 26th at 7:30 PM at Georgia Southern.
Louisiana is now 4-3, 1-2 in-conference, and fourth in the Sun Belt West Division. While still technically in the hunt for the West’s spot in the conference championship, the Cajuns are outsiders looking in. They play at South Alabama on Saturday, October 28th at 5:00 PM.