The Sun Belt started this weekend with a bit of a moral victory for Texas State, who went on the road and composed themselves well in a 41-7 loss to Texas A&M where the defense looked pretty darn respectable.
Then Louisiana came to play against Mississippi State and handled themselves well but couldn’t put all the pieces together in a 38-28 loss.
Who knows how things will go for Georgia Southern out in Death Valley, but their bitter rival/non-rival Georgia State just shocked everyone and absolutely pantsed Tennessee.
They weren’t great the entire game, but they didn’t fall apart or deviate from their game plan when the going got tough, and it paid off in the end with an impressive 38-30 victory.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Georgia State stuck to the plan, and the plan paid off in spades. Dan Ellington, coming off his first full offseason in the Panther’s program, opened the game with seven carries for 38 yards but only 1-of-9 passing for 28 yards as the early stages of the second quarter occurred.
From that point onward, he was 10-for-15 for 111 yards and a touchdown, while Tra Barnett nearly hit 100 yards rushing plus another touchdown despite not getting a single carry in the opening quarter.
The Panther defense locked things down in the fourth quarter. After a fumble by Ellington in the red zone on the first play of the fourth quarter, Tennessee quarterback Jared Guarantano completed a 54-yard pass to the edge of the red zone.
From that point onward, Guarantano dropped back to pass 11 times, was sacked three times, and went 5-for-8 for 36 yards and an interception.
Shout out to Brandon Wright for five extra points, a 48-yard field goal, and two solid punts.
WHAT WENT WRONG
The red zone fumble by Ellington couldn’t have come at a worse time, and those are the kinds of mistakes that cannot happen for this game to be the beginning of an upward trajector. The Panthers were fortunate that the defense had already figured out the Vols offense by then and it didn’t wind up costing them much.
I’m not sure why Tra Barnett didn’t touch the ball in the first quarter, but that needs to change going forward.
WHAT COMES NEXT
The Panthers need to make sure they don’t have a letdown at home against Furman next week, but the coming weeks give them a chance to prove that this game isn’t a fluke, with the likes of Western Michigan and Texas State on the docket.