ATLANTA--Looking to build on the positives from last Saturday's game at Tennessee, the Georgia State football team returns home to host UTSA Saturday at 6 p.m. at the Georgia Dome in the Panthers' first ever Saturday night home game at the Georgia Dome.
For the "Night White" theme, the Panthers will wear their white jerseys, and giveaways include free glow-in-the-dark t-shirts and free flashing sun glasses. For tickets, call 866-GA-STATE.
Both programs are in their infant stages with Georgia State playing its third season and UTSA its second, and both are in the first year of the two-year reclassification to the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). In the process, both are moving to new conferences next year, with GSU going from the CAA to the Sun Belt Conference and UTSA switching from the WAC to Conference USA.
The game also features a matchup of veteran coaches in Georgia State's Bill Curry and UTSA's Larry Coker, the former Miami head coach who led the Hurricanes to the national title in 2001-02.
"Larry Coker is a wonderful coach in everything he has done," said Curry at his weekly press conference. "He was an offensive wizard as a coordinator. Then he went to Miami and was the national coach of the year twice and led the Hurricanes to a national championship.
"He operates a complex offense that requires an awful lot of discipline because the defense has to protect the field on every snap. It's hard to draw a bead on what they're going to do."
Curry praised UTSA quarterback Eric Soza, a junior from Beeville, Texas, who has started all 12 games UTSA has played. He has completed 30 of 52 passes for 374 yards and four touchdowns while rushing for 53 yards on 12 attempts.
"He's played virtually every snap since they've been there," Curry said of Soza. "That gives them a tremendous advantage when the quarterback is a stable citizen and has been there the whole time. They have very good backs and really fast wide receivers, especially Kam Jones, No. 1, who runs like he's been shot out of a cannon."
David Glasco II is the Roadrunners' leading rusher with 128 yards and two touchdowns on 22 attempts, while Jones has four catches for 112 yards (28.0 yards per catch) and one score.
The Panthers are very familiar with UTSA placekicker Sean Ianno, who booted the game-tying field goal with 24 seconds left in regulation and then the game-winner in overtime in last year's 17-14 victory by the Roadrunners. This season, Ianno drilled a 51-yard field goal with just 16 seconds left to give UTSA a 33-31 win at South Alabama-GSU's future conference foe in the Sun Belt.
Curry noted some of the positive signs that the Panthers showed in a very tough environment at Neyland Stadium.
"We're enthusiastic about the improvement of our team," he said. "Both offensive and defensive lines have had some significant steps forward. Both lines are providing good leadership. [Quarterback] Ben McLane continues to improve. He has to take better care of the football, but we're correcting that on the practice field this week.
"Defensively, we've got to improve in our pass coverage, that's very clear. Up front, we've shown improvement."
Still, Curry said that while he is pleased with the progress his squad showed in the loss at Tennessee, he isn't satisfied.
"I expect this team to improve every week and every day," he said. "We've been pushing for that since last November. We're going to do that all year. There was some improvement, but there was still way too much that we left in the tank.
"It was obvious after 25 minutes that we had a chance to compete," continued Curry. "The guys were beginning to look at each other and say, 'We're doing this thing.' The most fun in the world is to go into a stadium that's the loudest place you've ever been in your life and make it quiet. We had them quiet for about 25 minutes, but then we let them off the hook. We kept playing hard and that's admirable. But that wasn't the objective. The objective was to be in the game with a chance to win."