ATLANTA--Georgia State returns to the Georgia Dome to host Colonial Athletic Association foe and nationally-ranked New Hampshire Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
The Panthers are in search of their first victory of the season after falling to 0-5 with a 35-3 loss at William and Mary. The Wildcats (3-2, 1-1 CAA) are coming off a 34-14 victory over No. 8 Delaware, one week after scoring 61 points in the epic 64-61 loss to Old Dominion. New Hampshire head coach Sean McDonnell will be seeking his 100th career victory in his 14th season with the Wildcats.
UNH is ranked No. 17 in the FCS Coaches Poll and No. 14 by the Sports Network. The Wildcats have been ranked for 118 consecutive weeks, the longest active streak in the nation.
Saturday's game will be GSU's third against a ranked FCS team. The first two matchups were both against Jacksonville State. In 2010, in just the third game in schoool history, the Panthers' took the fifth-ranked Gamecocks to overtime before falling, 34-27. Last season, the Panthers fell at 16th-ranked JSU, 37-21. GSU has also played one nationally-ranked FBS team, falling at No. 11 Alabama, 63-7, in 2010.
With GSU's reclassification to the Football Bowl Subdivision and move to the Sun Belt Conference in 2013, this fall marks the Panthers' first and only season of CAA Football, but GSU does not count in the CAA standings.
GSU Radio Network, including Atlanta flagship WCFO-AM Newstalk 1160 and WMLB-AM 1690. Announcers are Dave Cohen (play-by-play), Harper LeBel (analyst), and Sam Crenshaw (sideline).
Through Georgia State's struggles on offense, the constant has been senior running back Donald Russell, who ranks second in the CAA in rushing at 98.0 yards per game and fourth in all-purpose yards at 122.0. He averages 6.0 yards per carry.
Over the last two games, Russell has run for 226 yards on 45 carries and caught nine passes for 78 yards, including 107 yards rushing and four catches against William and Mary. That followed 119 yards rushing and five receptions for 51 yards vs. Richmond for a career-high 170 all-purpose yards.
Russell opened his senior season by rushing for 120 yards on just 12 carries against South Carolina State. Against SCSU, Russell raced 52 yards on his first carry of the season, and he matched that with a 52-yard run against Richmond. Those are his longest runs for the Panthers but not the longest of his career; he had a 79-yard scamper as a freshman at Kentucky in 2009.
Russell is the Panthers' career rushing leader with 1,155 yards and 10 touchdowns. Last season, the transfer from Kentucky became the first 100-yard rusher in school history when he gained 136 yards against South Alabama. He added a career-high 146 yards in the 2011 finale against Campbell.
BELL MAKES STARTING DEBUT
Redshirt freshman Ronnie Bell made his first start under center against William and Mary, becoming Georgia State's fifth different starting quarterback over the last two seasons.
Although he threw four interceptions, Bell completed 13 of 26 passes for 157 yards.
Perhaps the most positive sign for Bell was his ability to make plays on third down, accomplishing eight third-down conversions with runs or completions. He gained three first downs with short runs, and converted third-and-13, third-and-eight, third-and-three, third-and-11 and third-and-five with pass completions.
LUTZ TAKES OVER KICKING DUTIES
Wil Lutz is the latest true freshman to take on a prominent role for the Panthers. After handling kickoffs for GSU all season, he added field goal duties against William and Mary. The Newnan, Ga., native put both of his kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks and booted a 37-yard field goal on his only attempt. That is the longest field goal for GSU this season.
HUBBARD IN TOP FIVE IN FCS
Georgia State punter Matt Hubbard owns the fifth-best punting average in FCS, averaging 45.67 yards per kick, despite a subpar performance at William and Mary. Ten of his 21 punts have travelled 50 yards or more, including his amazing 80-yard boot against South Carolina State.
Hubbard's individual average leads the CAA, as does the Panthers' net of 41.3 yards per punt.
Because of Georgia State's reclassification to the Football Bowl Subdivision, Hubbard does not qualify for NCAA rankings in FBS or FCS. The top average in FCS belongs to Tony Epperson of Weber State at 48.00, while Richie Leone of Houston leads FBS at 48.30.
Hubbard's career average stands at 43.1.
FELDER HONORED IN THE CLASSROOM
Senior outside linebacker Akeen Felder is one of 147 student-athletes who have been named as candidates for the 2012 NFF National Scholar-Athlete Awards, presented by Fidelity Investments®, and semifinalists for the 2012 William V. Campbell Trophy, endowed by HealthSouth, which recognizes the top football scholar-athlete in the nation.
A native of Perry, Ga., Felder earned his degree in sociology in 2012 and is now working a minor in hospitality management. He has been named to the Dean's List and Athletic Director's Honor Roll and serves on the GSU Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. On the field, Felder has played in every game in GSU history and served as the Panthers' special teams captain in 2011.
WOODARD MANS THE MIDDLE
Perhaps the most improved player on the Georgia State defense is noseguard Terrance Woodard. The junior from Ocilla, Ga., is the Panthers' leading tackler with 36. He also has two tackles for loss, one sack, two pass breakups and a fumble recovery at Tennessee.