Panthers stressing third down execution in time of possession battle


Khadrice Rollins

krollins@ajc.com

Time of possession has not been positive for Georgia State so far.

The Panthers (0-4, 0-1 Sun Belt) have yet to hold the ball for at least 25 minutes in any game this year and it is part of the reason they are still searching for their first win. With the offense looking to keep possessions going longer and the defense trying to get off the field more on third downs, both units agree there is one simple way to fix the problem — make plays.

“When you only have the ball less than 25 minutes a game, you’re not going to get very many opportunities to score,” offensive coordinator Luke Huard said. “We have too many good players, and unfortunately those guys aren’t getting enough opportunities right now because we’re not staying on the field. … The more you’re on the field, the more opportunities for good things to happen.”

It’s been a similar message for the players on the other side of the ball this week.

“When we’re out there, we got to get ourselves off the field,” defensive coordinator Jesse Minter said. “Either by getting an interception or a fumble or getting a stop on third down. So a lot of that is our own fault for why we’ve been on the field so much.”

If there is a specific time plays need to be made for the Panthers,both sides would agree its third down. They have converted only 35 percent of their own third down opportunities while allowing the opposition to convert 49 percent of the time. To make matters worse, GSU have moved the chains just one time in four tries on fourth down, but opposing teams are 4-of-5 on fourth down conversions.

The Panthers will have their work cut out for them Saturday against a Texas State (2-2) squad that has been able to end opponents’ drives on third downs. Teams are only 22-of-58 on third downs against the Bobcats.

Coming off a game in which it went just 4-of-14 on third downs, the GSU offense is looking to set up easier third down scenarios.

“Win first and second down,” tight end Keith Rucker said. “You win first and second down, most of the time you’re not in a situation where you have to try to get third down conversions. If we can eliminate the long third downs and make them minimal third downs, or if we can stay in first and second down, we’ll be golden.”

On the defensive end, the Panthers should have a slightly easier assignment. Last week they only allowed Appalachian State (3-2, 1-0) to move the chains five times on 15 third down attempts and that 33 percent success rate equates to what Texas State’s offense has done on third downs throughout the year.

Defensive players said they are putting the onus on themselves to change the time of possession narrative for GSU. Saturday against the Bobcats, who have had similar issues with time of possession, might be when the unit makes the plays necessary to flip the script on one of the Panthers’ most consistent problems.

“If we got to be on the field 100 plays, 150 snaps, we still have to execute,” safety Bryan Williams said. “Our job when we go out there on the field is first to get the ball back, and next is to create a field change. We take pride in getting the ball, setting up good field for our offense and just continuing to play fast.”


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