By: Raynard Churchwell
For the first time in school history, the Georgia State Panthers defeated the Arkansas State Red Wolves by a score of 52-38. The crowd was packed in for homecoming and the Panthers put on a show for everyone in attendance. The victory brings the Panthers’ record to 3-2 on the season and ranks them tied for 2nd in the Sun Belt’s East division. As for the Red Wolves, the loss puts them at .500 with a 3-3 record.
The game started out in a dominant fashion for Georgia State. The offense quickly showed how explosive they were as they converted ten first downs in the first quarter. Quarterback Dan Ellington also started out sharp going 9 for 13 on pass attempts for 113 yards. Running back Tra Barnett scored the only points in the quarter with a three-yard touchdown. The Panther defense was also rock-solid in the first quarter as they held the Red Wolves’ offense to one first down and a measly 24 total yards.
The second quarter became a roller coaster for Georgia State. The Panther offense would again come out fast and score two early touchdowns. Thus, making the score 21- 0. However, the Red Wolves’ offense would begin to make some big plays. Red Wolves’ Quarterback Layne Hatcher began to find his rhythm as he threw a 24-yard strike for a touchdown. Four minutes later, Arkansas State running back Marcel Murray ran for a 28-yard touchdown to cut Georgia State’s lead to only 10 points. Both teams would trade touchdowns late as Georgia State Receiver Sam Pickney scored an 11-yard touchdown with 1:38 left in the quarter. As the quarter came to a close, Arkansas State wide receiver Omar Bayless would score a 31–yard touchdown with 47 seconds left to give the Red Wolves some momentum. Georgia State would maintain the lead at halftime by a score of 31-21. The Panthers finished the half with 421 total yards. The Red Wolves’ offense was able to make adjustments and gain 247 yards of total offense after not showing up in the first quarter.
As the 2nd half began, you could feel the energy rise in the stadium. Both teams came back with renewed intensity, and you felt the game could go either way. Georgia State’s defense came out to a great start. Senior defensive end Terry Thomas came up with a sack during the Red Wolves’ first offensive drive to set the tone for the Panthers. The Panther offense got off to a hot start also, as quarterback Dan Ellington ran for a 10-yard touchdown on the opening drive. The defense would show up again on the Red Wolves’ next drive, as Jonathan Ifedi intercepted a pass from Arkansas State quarterback Layne Hatcher. Penalties would plague the Panthers on their next few drives. Arkansas State capitalized off those penalties late in the quarter as the Red Wolves’ star receiver Omar Bayless scored on a 4-yard touchdown. This ended the 3rd quarter with Georgia State still leading the game with a score of 38-28.
In the 4th quarter, the game got very interesting. Both teams emerged full of adrenaline and ready to go. Arkansas State would come out like a house of fire. The Red Wolves scored quickly as Wide Receiver Omar Bayless scored his 3rd touchdown of the game, cutting the Panthers’ lead to just three points. At this point, you could sense the feeling of nervousness coming from the Georgia State fans as they witnessed the 21-point Panther lead diminish to just three. But, the Panthers would not fold. Georgia State running back Destin Coates would score touchdowns late in the quarter and secure the homecoming victory for the Panthers.
Quarterback Dan Ellington finished the game with a season-high 382 passing yards to go along with his 69 rushing yards and two total touchdowns. Running Back Tra Barnett had his 3rd 100+ yard game of his career going for 139 yards and one touchdown on the day. When asked how much the win meant for the program, Georgia State Head Coach Shawn Elliot explained how proud he felt of the heart that his team showed. “We’ve never beaten Arkansas State,” Elliot said. “If you want to get some attention in this league go knock off the guy that you never touched before. I told them to start thinking about winning on Monday, and we executed that today.”
The Panthers will look to build on their two-game win streak as they prepare to face the 3-2 Coastal Carolina Chanticleers next week.