ATLANTA--Georgia State fell to Colonial Athletic Association foe Richmond, 35-14, Saturday at the Georgia Dome. Donald Russell rushed for 119 yards for the Panthers.
The Panthers fell to 0-4 overall playing in their first and last Colonial Athletic Association opener (the program moves to the Sun Belt Conference in 2013). Richmond improved to 3-1, 1-0 CAA.
"This process is very frustrating because we do so many things to hurt ourselves," said State coach Bill Curry. "If we simply play our very best all the time we should be a really good football team."
Russell, a senior, went over the 100-yard mark for the second time this season and fourth time in his GSU career. He added five receptions for 51 yards for a total of 170 all-purpose yards on 29 touches.
Russell matched his longest run at GSU with a 52-yard scamper late in the second quarter. That got the Panthers to the Richmond 28 and set up Georgia State’s lone score. Russell later caught a 14-yard pass from Ben McLane and followed that with a five-yard run on third-and-three. After an incompletion, McLane connected with Albert Wilson, who broke through one tackle and found the end zone to make it a 21-7 game.
The GSU defense forced a punt to give the Panthers the ball with 40 seconds left in the half. But McLane was intercepted by Cooper Taylor on a tipped ball, and that allowed the Spiders to once again make it a three-touchdown game. John Laub found Stephen Barnette for a 32-yard hook up to the GSU eight-yard line. Georgia State appeared to have prevented a touchdown with three consecutive goal-line stops, but after the stop on fourth-and-goal was erased on a defensive offsides penalty, Laub pounded his way into the end zone for a one-yard score on an untimed down to put the Spiders up 28-7.
"We had some work excellent goal line work but hurt ourselves again so there was all of that," Curry said. "We fought the daylights out of them...but after a valiant goal line stand we gave them five downs. But we’re going to keep pushing and working until we get everybody the same page. That’s what has to happen next. A lot of good thing are happening, but we got to have more."
Wilson, who entered the contest leading the CAA with 158.7 all-purpose yards per game, didn’t get to add to that total in the first quarter. The junior suffered an apparent hip bruise but returned for Georgia State’s first promising drive of the half, catching a 13-yard pass on the opening play from scrimmage. The Panthers got to the Richmond 13-yard line, but four straight incompletions, including one intended for Wilson and tipped out of the back of the end zone on fourth-and-10, turned the ball over on downs.
Richmond jumped on top with a pair of long drives in the opening half.
The Spiders picked up the game’s first points, capping a 13-play, 83-yard drive with a touchdown midway through the opening quarter. Junior wide out Ben Edwards, who came into the day second in the CAA averaging 116.3 all-purpose yards per game, caught three passes for 26 yards, while Kendall Gaskins had three carries for 19 yards, including a one-yard score that made it 7-0.
After a Georgia State punt, the visitors marched 71 yards in 14 plays, getting quarterback John Laub’s one-yard touchdown sneak to go up 14-0 with 13:35 left in the half.
Laub made it 21-0 when he found Stephen Barnette for a completion across the middle, and Barnette out-ran safety Demazio Skelton for a 49-yard touchdown.
Richmond grabbed a 35-7 cushion midway through the third when Laub capped an eight-play drive with a tumbling, six-yard touchdown run.
Georgia State had a chance to cut into the lead late in the third, but Matt Ehasz was wide left on a 38-yard field goal attempt. The Panthers finally scored again with under a minute to play. Led by backup quarterback Ronnie Bell (91 passing yards, 31 rushing yards on the day), the Panthers drove 70 yards on eight plays, and Russell capped his big day with a two-yard touchdown run on a direct snap with 43 seconds left.
"It was a Donald Russell day," Curry said. "You just see how valuable he is, you just have to keep giving it to him when he’s full speed. I’m really pleased with Ronnie Bell. I think Ronnie Bell made a statement about his ability."
Wilson wasn't the only one hobbling for the Panthers. Both starting center Michael Davis (ankle injury) and backup Ronald Martin (knees) left with injuries, forcing guard Tim Wynn to play center for much of the second half.
"There was some circumstances that were outside our control. We lost both our centers (and) Tim had to play center really without having done it in two years," Curry said.
Georgia State will once again try for win No. 1 when it travels to Williamsburg, Virginia September 29 to play William & Mary.