- Gabriel Burns
Here are five observations from Georgia State’s 31-10 loss to Appalachian State, which dropped the team to 1-3 at home.
Missed opportunities: There were plenty in the early going. On the opening drive, GSU was halted at the Mountaineers’ 44. On fourth-and-1, the team flirted with going for it but called timeout and came out in a punt formation. It appeared to be a fake punt – or at least a possible one – but Brandon Wright’s hesitation led to a block.
Appalachian State did nothing with it. Chandon Sullivan intercepted Taylor Lamb on the first play of the drive and GSU took over at its own 26. Sullivan, a 2017 Campbell Trophy finalist, has seven career interceptions, the most in school history.
The Panthers’ drive chewed up roughly four minutes, but Wright missed a 45-yard field-goal attempt to make it all for naught. The missed kick interrupted a nice run for the sophomore after connecting on four field goals and scoring 15 points in the 33-30 win against Texas State. Wright responded with a 50-yard later in the afternoon.
The Mountaineers took the ensuing possession down to the GSU 1-yard line, but were stopped on fourth down continuing a scoreless draw.
With their backs against the wall down 17-7, GSU quarterback Conner Manning was intercepted by A.J. Howard on what appeared to be a major miscommunication. Howard returned it to the 6 and put the Panthers in a 24-7 hole two plays later.
A flat effort: Panthers coach Shawn Elliott was blunt in his postgame news conference. He felt the team, adding unnamed position groups, came out flat.
“We just needed a little more competitive spirit out there that we didn’t have,” Elliott said. “You think coming out, a 10-7 ballgame in the second half, a lot to play for. Thirty minutes for a (Sun Belt) championship or potential to play for a championship, for some reason it was a flat locker room to tell you the truth. There were some position groups that were in a faraway place. It’s our jobs as coaches to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
Safety Antreal Allen, who had an interception, agreed with Elliott’s assessment after the defense allowed two touchdowns in the first six minutes of the third quarter.
“We just came out flat in the second half,” Allen said. “Came out flat. That’s all I can say about that.”
Nothing lasts forever: Jalin Moore crossed the 100-yard mark in the first half against a usually stout GSU run defense. He broke a 58-yard dash on the first drive of the second half, leading to a touchdown that put Appalachian State up 17-7.
Entering Saturday, the Panthers were the only FBS team to not allow a 100-yard rusher. They allowed the opposition to rush for over 100 yards five times, but contained individual performances.
That wasn’t the case against the Mountaineers, when Moore carried an otherwise uninspiring offense. The most rushing yards GSU’s defense had allowed in 2017 came in its home opener, when Tennessee State ran for 238 on 42 attempts.
Moore finished with 239 yards on 32 carries himself.
“We had a 239-yard rusher against us, good Lord,” Elliott said. “That’s pretty discouraging considering the type of rush defense we played in the last few games.”
An emotional day: Elliott faced his alma mater for the first time. He graduated from Appalachian State in 1996. Elliott coached under Jerry Moore for 13 years with the Mountaineers, contributing to three FCS titles, two semifinals and three quarterfinals in 10 playoff appearances.
“It didn’t mean so much going against Appalachian State, to tell you the truth,” Elliott said. “I’m here at Georgia State now. It’s the friends I have on that staff, the relationships that I’ve built that are so important. … The relationships (I was) going up against were a bit odd, but I went out there and took the field with every intention of kicking their tails.”
The Mountaineers have won all four meetings with the Panthers. Last season’s 17-3 result had a first half similar to the 2017 edition, with GSU keeping it close until the Mountaineers broke through just before half.
The standings: GSU can finish no better than a third-place tie in the Sun Belt, but a win over Idaho next week at home would result in the most wins in a season in school history. The Panthers have qualified for a bowl with six wins. A 7-4 finish would be a step in the right direction for Elliott.
Idaho, which sits at 3-7, will complete GSU’s home slate in its inaugural season at Georgia State Stadium. The Panthers are 1-3 at home, surprisingly doing much of their damage away from downtown Atlanta. Their five road wins are tied for second-most in the FBS, trailing only Oklahoma State.