ATLANTA--Georgia State head coach Bill Curry and 11 GSU seniors will play their final home game at the Georgia Dome as the Panthers host No. 5 Old Dominion Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
Georgia State (1-8) is coming off a 28-21 loss at No. 9 James Madison in which the Panthers rallied for two fourth-quarter touchdowns before falling short of a miraculous comeback.
Old Dominion improved to 7-1 overall, 4-1 in the CAA, with a 31-26 victory over Delaware.
"What Bobby Wilder and the Old Dominion program have accomplished is without precedent for a startup program," said Curry at his weekly press conference.
At No. 5 in both the Sports Network Top 25 and the FCS Coaches Poll, Old Dominion is the highest-ranked FCS that Georgia State has faced since playing fourth-ranked Jacksonville State in 2010 in the Panthers' third game ever and first against any FCS team. GSU fell, 34-27 in overtime, in that contest.
ODU is the most prolific offensive team in the FCS ranks, leading the nation in scoring (44.63 ppg) and total offense (565.5 ypg) while ranking third in passing offense (400.4 rpg). The Monarchs operate at a very fast tempo, averaging 85 offensive plays per game.
"Their quarterback, Taylor Heinicke, is a graduate of an Atlanta high school (Collins Hill). He was an outstanding student," said Curry. "We didn't decide until late that we would even try to recruit any quarterbacks, because we thought we had a cupboard full of quarterbacks at the time. That has not turned out to be the case and by the time we did try to recruit him, it was too late. Taylor went to ODU, which turned out to be a good decision.
"He is averaging almost 400 yards a game passing," Curry continued. "He runs effectively, but according to their coaches, they don't have a planned quarterback run. He scored three touchdowns in the last game, but they were all off of improvisation."
Heinicke leads the nation in total offense with 436.3 yards of passing and rushing per game. He has 24 touchdown passes and eight scores on the ground.
Curry noted that the best defense against ODU is a ball-control offense.
"The team that has played Old Dominion the best and the team that beat them was Villanova," he said. "They did a great job and held them to 14 points. Villanova's offense kept the ball for 40 minutes. That's a big part of it. That's not so much slowing down as it is making first downs. What we have to do is generate first downs and time of possession. We have to keep their offense off the field as much as possible."
Georgia State and Old Dominion are meeting for the third straight year as ODU becomes the first team that the Panthers will face three times in their brief history. The Monarchs captured the first two meetings, winning 34-20 in Norfolk in 2010 and then 40-17 in last year's game, also at the Georgia Dome. Both teams move to new conferences next fall with Georgia State going to the Sun Belt Conference and Old Dominion off to Conference USA.
"We want to get ourselves ready and end the season on a winning note," said Curry. "It will be hard to do, we know that. It will be demanding, but we're excited about an opportunity to play ODU. We have to play better than we have at any other point. We have to eliminate the mistakes. We have to play all four quarters at a withering pace."
GSU will honor its 11 seniors before the game, including key contributors such as Russell, Watson, tight end Emmanuel Ogbuehi and linebacker Akeen Felder. Curry preferred to talk about their final game at the Georgia Dome rather than his own.
"I would like them understand that they have built a set of relationships that will support them for the rest of their lives," he said. "I always try to tell them that they will be deeply and richly rewarded by the men in this room (the team meeting room)."