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Panthers’ seniors provide critical persepective for season’s second half


Khadrice Rollins

krollins@ajc.com

Coming off a hard-fought loss against Troy (5-1, 3-0 Sun Belt) the Panthers (1-5, 1-2) find themselves in a spot not that different from where they were this time last year. GSU was 2-4 through six games last season, and a two-game losing streak nearly eliminated them from bowl contention. With no room for error left in the season, the Panthers finally clicked and won their last four games of the regular season to earn a berth in the Cure Bowl with a 6-6 record.

“So we’ve got six games left. We only had four games left last year to get it done,” coach Trent Miles said. “We’ve got six games, and these kids know that. It’s a whole new season now. The slate is clean. We play one game at a time, and our goal is to be 1-0 this week.”

What also allows GSU to keep calm in this tough situation is a collective understanding that the team has yet to perform at its best. In four of the Panthers’ five losses, they were either ahead or within one score of their opponent in the fourth quarter, but key mistakes led to their eventual defeat.

Safety Bobby Baker said he and the rest of his teammates are aware of just what they can do, but that unfulfilled promise is both a gift and a curse.

“We show spurts of greatness,” Baker said. “We show spurts of a 10-0 team. We show spurts of good stuff, and that shows us the potential that we have. But the word potential is so dangerous because you don’t win games off potential, you don’t win off of talent.”

As the Panthers look to bring it all together and pick up another win, Miles said the seniors who have all gone through this before will be a crucial in getting everything on track.

“Your senior leadership is everything,” Miles said. “The players have to take ownership and responsibility and be accountable for the team. As coaches, you put them in great position, you coach them hard all week, but on gameday, you’re not on the field, they are. So the leadership has to come from the players, and the ownership of your program has to come from the players, and as long as you got guys that are doing that, you’ll find a way to fight through adversity.”

Wide receiver Robert Davis said he is not going to say anything to younger players to make sure they keep their spirits high, because he said he feels the mentality necessary for them to overcome the slow start to the season has been placed into players already.

Davis added that it was important for older guys on the team to show him what it took to have success and overcome struggles at GSU and that was something guys made sure to instill in younger players as early as possible.

“It’s just passed down,” Davis said. “Guys like Joseph Peterson, Nick Arbuckle, they passed it down to us, and it’s up to us to pass it down to the younger guys. So when they come into the program, we demand that from them. We demand that culture from them.”

Still, Baker is putting more responsibility on himself to make sure the team does get it together, whether it’s speaking up and having a players-only meeting, or performing even better on the field.

“I definitely feel like as a senior I have to step up often times and either say something or do something,” Baker said. “I prefer to do, I don’t really like to talk much.”


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