Georgia State lost 34-15 to Western Michigan Saturday afternoon at “Pete” Petit Field at Georgia State Stadium.
Quarterback Dan Ellington led the way for GSU (1-3), going 19-for-29 for 285 yards while also throwing an interception. He added 35 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, his second and third of the season.
Western Michigan (2-2) was anchored by its rushing attack, led by Jamauri Bogan and LeVante Bellamy. Bogan rushed for 126 yards, including a 71-yard touchdown run, and Bellamy ran for 121 yards. Quarterback Jon Wassnik went 20-for-25, for 234 yards and three touchdowns.
The stifling defense of Western Michigan forced three fumbles and picked off Ellington once, while the offense racked up a combined 528 yards on a shorthanded Georgia State defense.
After holding Western Michigan to a field goal on its opening drive, the Panthers answered quickly. Ellington scrambled for nine yards setting up an 11-yard pass over the middle to tight end Camrin Knight, leading to a 36-yard field goal by Barry Brown, tying the game 3-3.
The Panthers defense held strong for much of the second quarter, until Wassnik found Brett Borske over the middle for a 17-yard touchdown to cap a nine-play, 61-yard drive, putting Western Michigan back up 10-3.
Down 13-3 with just under three minutes remaining in the half after another WMU field goal, Ellington floated a pass to true freshman Destin Coates, who ran the ball 50 yards to the WMU 10. Ellington took it in himself on the next play, cutting the lead to 13-9 after a missed extra point.
But from there, the Broncos would go on to put up 21 unanswered points, beginning with a touchdown pass to Keishawn Watson in the closing seconds of the first half and capped off by back-to-back third quarter scores on a 40-yard pass to Jayden Reed and run by Bogan.
The Panthers would put points on the board one more time in the third quarter, on a drive kicked off by a 23-yard pass from Ellington to Penny Hart, who finished the day leading the team with five catches for 91 yards. He hit Hart again to bring the ball down to the WMU 33. After a short run by Ellington, he hit true freshman Cornelius McCoy for 13 yards down to the WMU 16. A 6-yard rush by Ellington and 8-yard rush from Coates put the ball in position for Ellington to punch it in himself.
McCoy finished with five catches for 80 yards, and Coates caught three passes for 62 yards while only carrying the ball four times for the Panthers.
“As you can see it was certainly not the day we had expected,” head coach Shawn Elliott said. “When you come out and you have a loss 34-15 to Western Michigan and probably in every phase and every aspect of the game we had multiple issues as far as sloppiness – coming from our kicking game into our offense and to our defense it was kind of a day of ‘what ifs.’
“Defensively our strong suit, up until the last two weeks, has been to stop the run and have an ability to really shut down the running game,” Elliott continued. “In the last two weeks there has been an inability to get a hat on the ball carrier, defend out gaps, to make adjustments and go out and execute. And then we can’t go out and fundamentally execute an extra point, then there’s cause for serious concern.
“Ultimately here we are four games into it and the entire three phases need great improvement.”
The Panthers continue to battle injuries, particularly in the defensive secondary, where Georgia State started two true freshmen in cornerback Quavian White and safety Jacorey Crawford, while redshirt freshman Jaylon Jones made his first start at cornerback.
Two more true freshmen saw their first action for Georgia State in receiver Sam Pinckney and special teams player Tucker Gregg, bringing to 12 the number of true freshmen to play in the first four games.
Punter Brandon Wright continues to be a bright spot for the Panthers; he averaged 52.0 yards on his three kicks.
Georgia State hosts ULM next Saturday, Sept. 29 at 2 p.m. at Georgia State Stadium to begin Sun Belt Conference play.