Georgia State football (5-2) last Saturday exemplified head coach Bill Curry’s central observation about his team; they are resilient. In the first half, GSU’s defense was getting pushed around and the offense could not run the ball. North Carolina Central ran the ball 14 times for 74 yards in the first quarter and 11 times for 69 yards in the second.
By contrast, the Panthers rushed 15 times for 28 yards in the first half and were down 7-3 at halftime. Georgia State was out of sync, as exemplified by a rare Iain Vance field goal miss from only 29 yards.
The second half and overtime were a different story, with the Eagles rushing 19 times for only 32 yards. A season-long 85-yard Georgia State touchdown drive in the third quarter was boosted by a rejuvenated Panther rushing attack. That gave GSU its first lead of the game at 10-7.
GSU quarterback Drew Little continues to avoid throwing interceptions. He completed 16 of 29 passes for 205 yards Saturday. Little has not thrown an interception since just before halftime of the Jacksonville State game on September 18. Little’s favorite target Saturday was receiver Danny Williams, who caught five passes for 103 yards, including a 24-yard touchdown pass that appeared to win the game 17-14 for GSU with 5:36 left in regulation.
We say appeared to win were it not for two late coaching decisions that did not go in the Panthers’ favor. With less than a minute to go, Georgia State had the ball at NCCU’s 31 on 4th-and-1, but Little’s keeper failed and the Eagles got one more crack. NCCU kicker Frankie Cardelle took advantage of that crack to make a rare, long game-tying field goal from 44 yards out, but only after he missed his first attempt that was nullified by a GSU time-out.
There were plenty of ups and downs in this game, as there were earlier in the season against Lambuth, Jacksonville State and Campbell. The Panthers lost two of those games but fought to the end. That resilency is an intangible that serves this team well.
As an example, wildcat formation quarterback Kelton Hill fumbled the ball twice but ran 3 times for 31 yards in the third quarter on GSU’s first touchdown drive. Then you had Vance redeeming himself with the game-winning field goal after missing a first-quarter chip shot.
Safety Fred Barnes again posted strong defensive stats last Saturday with 7.5 tackles and an interception. Georgia State’s first scholarship player, linebacker Mark Hogan, was also active with 6.5 tackles.
The crowd of 13,378 was a slight disappointment because only about 1,800 students showed up and would have been lower were it not for a solid North Carolina Central turnout. Nevertheless, that crowd was the 10th highest last week in FCS (formerly Division 1-AA).
NCCU’s (2-4) heartbreaking loss Saturday also helped cost their coach, Mose Rison, his job, as he was reassigned last Monday. Rison complained about being hampered with a tight budget.
Georgia State football next plays this Saturday at Old Dominion at 3:30 p.m.