For the second consecutive week in a row, Georgia Southern put a game on ice via a pick-six.
As the Eagles were nursing a 37-21 lead, the Panthers looked poised to strike once again. After all, Georgia State had just scored two touchdowns after halftime and had the momentum in their favor.
With all that said, Panthers’ quarterback Darren Grainger pump faked a throw to the flat, looked downfield and then decided to throw to the flat. By this time though, Eagles linebacker Marques Watson-Trent jumped the route and took the ball back for a touchdown, leading to Southern defeating Georgia State by a 44-27 margin on Thursday night.
Georgia Southern opened the game by trading possessions with State and nursing a 10-7 lead over the Panthers by the time the second frame began. But a 17-point, second quarter explosion thanks to a Jalen White score, a Davis Brin touchdown pass to Dalen Cobb and a field goal left Southern in a familiar spot, up big at halftime.
But like last week against UL Monroe, Georgia Southern came sleepwalking out of the half, and was caught flat footed until Watson-Trent’s interception return helped put away the victory for the Eagles.
Quarterback play was the decider
I have been critical of Davis Brin as of late, and I do not feel as though it had been unwarranted. In two consecutive weeks against ULM and James Madison, the Eagles signal caller had compiled just two touchdown passes to four interceptions.
Brin certainly made his mistakes in this one — an interception and fumble on back-to-back third quarter drives saw to that — but his first half play was near flawless, as he finished with 334 yards and 3 touchdowns with one pick.
On the other side, Darren Grainger could not seemingly get settled in the pocket against a Georgia Southern front that has struggled to pressure the quarterback this season, finishing the night with just 157 yards and as many interceptions as he had scores, with two apiece.
Marcus Carroll continued his campaign for top rusher in the nation, but much of it seemed like empty calories and never really put State in position to pick up a win. Carroll ended the night with 208 yards on the ground, but with Southern holding a 27-7 advantage after two quarters, it simply did not matter.
From a play calling perspective, Eagles offensive coordinator Bryan Ellis probably called his finest game of the season, and ran circles around counterpart Trent McKnight. Ellis was doing a solid job leaning on the run when necessary, evidenced by White’s 116-yard explosion, and largely kept a good Panthers defense on their heels on a number of occasions.
All-in-all, it was a great win for Georgia Southern, who is now firmly in the driver’s seat in the Sun Belt East at 6-2 with just one conference loss to a team that cannot compete in the championship game.
Georgia State must win next week to keep any title game hopes alive, and who do they play?
* checks schedule *
James Madison. Good luck with that.