TROY, ALA. – Georgia State fell 37-20 at Troy in a Thursday night Sun Belt Conference game at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
GSU (2-4, 1-1 Sun Belt) quarterback Dan Ellington completed 20-of-36 passes for 272 yards and one touchdown while rushing for 59 yards.
Penny Hart had his best game of the season with six catches for 128 yards, the 10th 100-yard game of his career. Running back Tra Barnett and receiver Christian Owens scored touchdowns for the Panthers, and Brandon Wright booted two field goals.
Troy (5-1, 3-0) used big plays to win its fifth straight game as starting quarterback Kaleb Barker had a 75-yard run to set up a score and then a 50-yard touchdown pass on the Trojans first two drives.
Barker finished with 136 yards passing and two touchdowns and 111 yards rushing before leaving the game, and B.J. Smith rushed for 140 yards and two touchdowns for the Trojans.
After Troy scored on its opening possession, Georgia State looked to respond, driving to the Troy 32, where the Panthers faced 4th-and-6. Ellington completed a 19-yard pass to freshman Cornelius McCoy for a first down, but Troy’s Tyler Murray knocked the ball out with a big hit and the Trojans recovered at the 10.
“We kept fighting,” head coach Shawn Elliott said. “We took a lot of blows in the first half. The first two drives they had big-yardage plays and scored both drives. Then we take our first possession down to, what, the 12-yard line and we fumbled. That really took the wind out of our sails.”
Midway through the second quarter, with the Panthers trailing 21-0, junior defensive end Terry Thomas and sophomore noseguard Dontae Wilson combined for a fourth-down stop inside the 1-yard line. One play earlier, senior linebacker Chase Middleton had a stop on third down.
“Our defense recovered a little bit late in the first half, and then we stopped them on four straight possessions,” Elliott said. “We had that goal-line stand and I thought we’d come out in the second half and have a chance to get back in it, but we couldn’t do anything offensively to start the half. We just ran out of time, but we certainly fought.”
The Panthers finally got on the scoreboard late in the first half on Brandon Wright’s 32-yard field goal with 14 seconds left in the half. Wright added another field goal, this one from 28 yards, to make the score 23-6 with six minutes to play in the third quarter.
On Troy’s next drive, freshman cornerback Tyler Gore came up with an interception on ball that was bobbled by the receiver and scooped up by Gore just shy of the goal line.
The Panthers took over and Ellington immediately hit Hart for 51 yards down the left sideline. But the drive ended with a fumble at the Troy 39-yard line.
Georgia State put together a 10-play, 75-yard drive, capped by Barnett’s 1-yard touchdown to make the score 30-12 with six minutes to play.
Ellington added a 21-yard touchdown pass to Owens, who also caught the two-point conversion with two minutes left.
Georgia State’s next game is two weeks from tonight, when the Panthers are at Arkansas State for another Sun Belt Conference Thursday night game on ESPNU.
“We’ve got to go regroup,” Elliott said. “We’ve played a lot of ballgames in a short amount of time. Maybe that was a little bit of it today, but Troy has a good football team. Coach Neal Brown does a great job and they’ve got some good players on that team. We’ll regroup, and this will be a much-needed break for us.”