With one game left, the rock that Georgia State has been hammering must feel like it’s the size of Stone Mountain.
The Panthers have had 11 chances to “break the rock,” the metaphor that coach Trent Miles likes to use to describe the process of earning a win.
Now the team, with 26 seniors, is down to its last heave. Georgia State (0-11) will host South Alabama on Saturday at the Georgia Dome.
“They can see it starting to crack,” Miles said. “They haven’t been able to break it, not because of their effort, but because of a few miscues. Every now and then they drop the hammer, but they pick it back up and continue to swing it.”
Parris Lee scored the first touchdown in Georgia State history against Shorter in 2010. Saturday will mark his last game and a chance to bookend his career with another touchdown.
As badly as he wants to win, he said he doesn’t feel any pressure to do so. That was a sentiment shared by fellow seniors Robert Ferguson and Allen McKay.
Ferguson, who has played in every game in Georgia State’s history, said any pressure he feels is related to making sure his teammates are lined up correctly and to continue to be a leader.
Ferguson said he doesn’t think the team’s 0-11 record properly reflects the team’s performance, but he also said the Panthers have nobody to blame but themselves.
“A lot of mistakes that we had affected us tremendously,” he said.
McKay said he won’t have regrets if the team doesn’t win because he doesn’t want to live his life that way.
“If I go out and give all I’ve got for the team, I don’t think there will be any regrets,” he said.
Lastly, that the team has won just one game the past two years doesn’t diminish the richness of the experience.
“The season didn’t go like we expected it go, but the relationships are something that, my senior year, I’m proud to say I was at GSU,” Lee said. “Regardless of the record or how things may have turned out. I’ve built up a friendship with these guys that will probably never change.”
So the players have once last chance to cap their careers with a positive memory.
South Alabama also is fairly new to football. The Jaguars played their first game in 2009, a year earlier than Georgia State. The Jaguars began the process of moving to FBS in 2011. They struggled in 2012, their first season in FBS (the same part of the transition that Georgia State currently is in), going 2-11.
But the Jags have bounced back this season with four wins. Like the Panthers, the Jags easily could have several more wins this year with just a little bit more luck. Four of their losses have been by two points or less.
So this final swing to break the rock won’t be easy for Georgia State.
More than anything, Miles said he wants the seniors to experience victory and be the first team to beat an FBS team in school history.
“Our ultimate chapter is to break that rock,” Lee said. “If we can break that rock, and me as a senior, go out on top, that would be all right.”