Georgia State head coach Shawn Elliott instructs Georgia State wide receiver Penny Hart (18) in the first half of the Panthers’ season opening game against Kennesaw State Aug. 30, 2018, at Georgia State Stadiumin Atlanta.
Photo: Hyosub Shin/hshin@ajc.com
Photo: Hyosub Shin/hshin@ajc.com

Georgia State, Georgia Southern rivalry began with a sign 

Georgia State players believe the Georgia State-Georgia Southern rivalry began with a postgame sign in 2014. 

Although Georgia Southern is only about 200 miles away, the Panthers and the Eagles have met only four times. Georgia State leads the series 3-1, dating to the first meeting in 2014. Wide receiver Penny Hart believes that’s when the rivalry began, noting Georgia Southern’s 69-31 win in the Georgia Dome. 

“They put up 700 yards of rushing on us,” Hart said. “Then put “Paulson Stadium North” up (referencing the Eagles’ home stadium in Statesboro), and I think that’s what really started everything. It was just a certain type of disrespect we couldn’t take, so as the years went on, we just really took that seriously.”

The schools will renew their rivalry at 2 p.m. Saturday at Georgia State Stadium.

Hart began his career with Georgia State in 2015. Since his first rivalry game, Hart has felt the intensity. In last season’s meeting, Hart’s 9-yard touchdown catch with only 2:31 left to play sealed the Panthers’ come-from-behind victory over the Eagles and gave the team its fifth win on the way to clinch a bowl berth. 

“It was an intense game, came down to a close game,” Hart said. “It’s a personal game. It really doesn’t matter who’s record has what or what anyone has done before that. It’s about any given Saturday.” 

Georgia State enters the fifth rivalry matchup against Georgia Southern with a three-game win streak, which includes giving the Eagles their worst home loss in 2015

Quarterback Dan Ellington will finish his first season with the Panthers on Saturday. However, Ellington is unfamiliar with the rivalry against the Eagles, so he relied on his teammates for background information ahead of Saturday’s game.  

“It’s going to be a lot of people at the game,” Ellington said. “We don’t like Southern, Southern doesn’t like us, and we won the last couple. I don’t really know much about the rivalry because I am new, but I am excited to get to and for Saturday.”

The animosity between the two teams set up a social-media phenomenon known as “#StateNotSouthern,” which Georgia Southern uses as “#SouthernNotState,” to further intensify the rivalry. 

“It’s personal for a lot of us, but in-state rivalry and overall just being able to say that we’re on top as far as the teams that are in the Sun Belt in Georgia or in this area,” Hart said. 

Along with the rivalry, seniors including linebacker Chase Middleton will wear the Panthers uniform one last time Saturday. Middleton is one of 12 seniors the university will honor for senior day. Georgia State seniors are currently undefeated against Georgia Southern. 

“Just knowing it’s one of our biggest rivalries no matter how the season has been going for us. This is one of the biggest games of the year for us,” Middleton says. “Especially for the seniors going out 4-0 will be real big and able to get that win will be big for us.” 

Georgia State hosts Georgia Southern in the rivalry, conference matchup Saturday, however Georgia State coach Shawn Elliott hopes his team realizes just how important this game really is for the entire team.    

“Time doesn’t stop for anyone,” Elliott said. “You have to make the most out of your opportunities every single day, and you can’t look back and go, “I wish I would’ve done this, I wish I would’ve done that.” I wish they could all share that message with a freshman or a sophomore right now just how quickly it’s over.”

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