ATLANTA--Coming off a dominating victory, Georgia State returns home to host Villanova for Homecoming on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at the Georgia Dome.
GSU (1-6) earned its first victory of the season last Saturday at Rhode Island, 41-7, behind the running of Donald Russell, who set school records with 201 yards rushing, 236 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns scored.
Now the Panthers must turn their attention to a Villanova (5-2, 3-1) squad coming off an impressive victory of its own, a 38-14 upset at third-ranked Old Dominion.
The two head coaches in this game feature more than 50 years of head coaching experience in GSU's Bill Curry, in his 20th year, and the Wildcats' Andy Talley, in his 28th year at Villanova and 33rd overall, highlighted by the 2009 FCS National Championship.
GSU Radio Network, including Atlanta flagship WCFO-AM Newstalk 1160. Announcers are Dave Cohen (play-by-play), Harper LeBel (analyst), and Sam Crenshaw (sideline).
Georgia State enters its third ever Homecoming game after winning its first two Homecoming contests, both in overtime. In the inaugural season of 2010, the Panthers defeated North Carolina Central, 20-17, on Iain Vance's 33-yard field goal. Last season, the Panthers defeated South Alabama, 27-20, in two overtimes. Donald Russell scored for the Panthers in the second overtime, and then Mark Hogan sealed the victory with an interception on USA's possession.
RECORD-SETTING DAY FOR RUSSELL
Running back Donald Russell enjoyed a record-setting day in the Panthers' 41-7 victory at Rhode Island and was named Colonial Athletic Association Offensive Player of the Week.
The senior from West Palm Beach, Fla., rushed for a school-record 201 yards on 21 carries. He scored on touchdown runs of 45 yards (his longest scoring run in a GSU uniform) and six yards and added a 35-yard touchdown reception. In addition to his rushing record, he becomes the first Panther to score three touchdowns in a game, and his total of 236 all-purpose yards is also a record.
MORE ON THE DONALD
Senior running back Donald Russell leads the CAA in rushing at 106.1 yards per game. He averages 6.5 yards per carry.
Russell has topped 100 yards in four of the Panthers seven games this season, including his school-record, 201-yard outing against Rhode Island. He had 107 yards rushing and four catches against William and Mary. That followed 119 yards rushing and five receptions for 51 yards vs. Richmond for 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 1,408 yards and 12 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 146 yards in the 2011 finale against Campbell.
HUBBARD AMONG THE BEST IN FCS
Georgia State punter Matt Hubbard owns the sixth-best punting average in FCS, averaging 44.91 yards per kick. Sixteen of his 33 punts have travelled 50 yards or more, including his amazing 80-yard boot against South Carolina State.
The Panthers' net punting average of 39.71 is the fifth-best mark in FCS.
Because of GSU's reclassification to the Football Bowl Subdivision, Hubbard and the Panthers do not qualify for NCAA rankings in FBS or FCS. The top individual averages in FCS belongs to Tony Epperson of Weber State at 48.00 and Bobby Wenzig of Alabama State at 47.67, while the top net punting average is by Penn at 40.41.
WILSON STRETCHES THE FIELD
Junior wide receiver Albert Wilson caught touchdown passes of 54 and 47 yards against New Hampshire, giving him 13 career TD catches, including seven of 40 yards or more.
Earlier this season, Wilson caught an 84-yard touchdown pass from Ben McLane on the Panthers' third snap against UTSA for the longest play from scrimmage in Georgia State history.
Wilson, from Port St. Lucie, Fla., has a hand in the three longest plays from scrimmage in GSU history with touchdown catches covering 78 and 64 yards last season against South Alabama. Add his 97-yard kickoff return against Alabama in 2010, and he has been involved in four of the five longest plays in Panther annals (Darren McCray had a 96-yard kickoff return vs. Campbell in 2010).
Including the kickoff return, Wilson's 14 career touchdowns have covered an average of 49.1 yards. He averages 18.8 yards for his 83 career receptions.
He also had non-scoring receptions of 51 yards vs. Campbell in 2010, 55 and 54 yards vs. Jacksonville State in 2011 and 50 yards vs. St. Francis in 2011, giving him nine receptions of 50 yards or longer in his career, five of them for touchdowns.
Senior tight end Emmanuel Ogbuehi (pronounced oh-BOY-ee) turned in the most productive game of his career against New Hampshire. He caught four passes for 76 yards against the Wildcats, both career highs, highlighted by a 26-yard touchdown pass from Ben McLane.
The 6-3, 235-pounder added four catches for 40 yards in the win over Rhode Island. He is the Panthers' third-leading receiver on the season with 12 catches for 139 yards.
McLANE REBOUNDS AGAINST RHODE ISLAND
Many of Georgia State's struggles on offense can be traced to lack of stability and consistency at the quarterback position. In two plus seasons, the Panthers have started five different quarterbacks, including two this season.
McLane, from Snellville, Ga., and Brookwood High School, started GSU's first four games before giving way to Bell in game five. Bell, from Fayetteville, Ga., and Sandy Creek High, showed positive signs in his first start, completing 13 of 26 passes for 157 yards against William and Mary and converting eight third downs with passes or runs. But after Bell struggled in the first half against New Hampshire, McLane took over for the second half and completed 10 of 19 passes for 169 and two touchdown passes. McLane then returned to the starting lineup and led the Panthers to a 41-7 win at Rhode Island as he completed 14 of 25 passes for 213 yards and two touchdowns with no turnovers and no sacks.
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 and booted a 37-yarder. He added boots of 40 yards and 26 yards in the win over Rhode Island and has been perfect on extra points.
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 44. He also has two tackles for loss, one sack, two pass breakups and a fumble recovery at Tennessee.
Georgia State's second-leading tackler is true freshman linebacker Joseph Peterson with 42 hits, plus two forced fumbles.
Peterson, from Dothan, Ala., has started five games at middle linebacker. In his debut against South Carolina State, he was the Panthers' second-leading tackler with eight hits, including a tackle for loss. After that performance, he served as a game captain for the Panthers' game at Tennessee and made nine tackles against the Vols. He added 10 tackles against UTSA.
As a senior at Dothan High, Peterson was a first-team all-state in Class 6A by the Alabama Sportswriters Association. He made 112 tackles, including eight tackles for loss and four sacks. On offense, he ran for 669 yards and 12 touchdowns.
SIX TRUE FRESHMEN SEE ACTION
Six true freshmen have seen action for the Panthers this season, including four on defense, one receiver/return specialist and one kicker.
Two true freshmen have started on defense in Joseph Peterson, one of the Panthers' leading tacklers, and outside linebacker Bryan Williams, the younger brother of former GSU tight end Arthur "Bully" Williams who saw his first action against Richmond and then made his first start at William and Mary.
Two other freshmen are playing on the defensive line in tackle Joe Lockley of Portal, Ga., and defensive end Melvin King of Hinesville, Ga. Lockley, an honorable mention all-state selection at tiny Portal High, is perhaps the strongest player on the team, and against Tennessee, he came up with an interception on a tipped ball.
Avery Sweeting of Brunswick, Ga., is beginning to earn playing time as a wide receiver and kickoff returner.
Freshman kicker Wil Lutz, a walk-on from Newnan, Ga., began the season as the Panthers' kickoff specialist and now also handling placements.
RUNNING WITH PURPOSE
Wilson is the Panthers' leading receiver with 30 catches for 562 yards and five touchdowns. He also averages 11.1 yards on punt returns and 20.5 yards on kickoff returns.
Russell is the CAA's top rusher (743 yards) and is also the Panthers' second-leading receiver (15 catches for 160 yards).
Wilson is GSU's career leader with 3,088 all-purpose yards (118.8 per game), while Russell is second at 1,609 yards.