Freshman Seth Paige rushed for a 145 yards on just nine carries, including an 82-yard touchdown that is the longest run from scrimmage in Georgia State history. Credit: Todd Drexler/Georgia State Athletics
Photo: Todd Drexler/SESPORTSMEDIA.com/U
Photo: Todd Drexler/SESPORTSMEDIA.com/U

Georgia State freshmen lead record-breaking rushing offense

Georgia State’s running game continues to improve as the team gets deeper into its schedule, breaking program records in the process.  

The Panthers broke the previous program record of most rushing yards in a game Saturday against Louisiana-Monroe, rushing for 308 yards. The previous record was 301 rushing yards in 2011 against Campbell. 

“It’s very big to be a part of something first,” junior running back Tra Barnett said. “We just have to keep progressing.”

Coach Shawn Elliott credits his offensive success to key blocks from the offensive line, running backs, and wide receivers. To ensure success on the ground, Elliott said his offense — the line, the backs, and the receivers — go through blocking “every single day.” 

“Perimeter blocking is just as important as it is inside, especially in our quarterback run game,” Elliott said. “They (running backs) have to be on point, too. They have to be just as committed to blocking as they are running their routes and catching the football.”

Successful perimeter blocking has allowed quarterback Dan Ellington to rush for 211 yards and four touchdowns this season. Ellington leads the Panthers in rushing yards, followed by freshman Seth Paige (188 yards, three touchdowns), freshman Destin Coates (137 yards, one touchdown), and Barnett (131 yards, one touchdown).

“I am very proud of the young ones,” Barnett said. “They really stepped up and helped the team as a whole.”

Freshmen Paige and Coates account for 42 percent of the Panthers’ rushing yards this season, scoring four of Georgia State’s nine rushing touchdowns. 

“I think the backs are still learning,” running backs coach Tim Bowens said. “They have to continue to grow. It’s been interesting, because we are a young group back there.” 

At 7:30 p.m. Thursday, in its second Sun Belt game, Georgia State will face a Troy (4-1, 2-0) defense that allowed a combined 345 rushing yards in its past two games. The Trojans rank third in rushing defense in the Sun Belt. 

“They do some things that they disguise pretty good,” Ellington said. “I have to make sure my eyes are in the right place to get the ball where it needs to be.”

Along with a top-three ranking in rushing defense, Troy leads the conference in sacks, ranks third in red-zone defense, and ranks third in total defense. 

With a quick turnaround from its Sun Belt opener Saturday, Georgia State’s run game momentum will be met  by a Troy defense with a four-game winning streak. 

“As young as we are, they will tend to feel as good as long as you let them feel good,” Elliott said. “We have to process it over that Sunday, get rid of it, and then get them back focused.” 

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