ATLANTA--It's Homecoming Week on the Georgia State campus, and the Panthers welcome South Alabama to the Georgia Dome for Saturday's Homecoming game, which kicks off at 3 p.m.
After playing three of its last four games on the road, Georgia State (1-5) looks to snap a five-game losing streak, including Saturday's 23-13 loss at South Carolina State in which the Panthers entered the fourth quarter tied at 13-13.
"Last week, we began to run the ball better than we had up to this point and we stopped the run better than we had against a pretty good football team," said Georgia State head coach Bill Curry at his weekly press conference. "We need to continue the improvement there. Our special teams improved and we improved in the area of penalties, not having ridiculous penalties, although we still had more than we would like.
"We've got miles to go in the two areas of the football game that are of critical importance," Curry continued. "Those are starting fast and playing well in the fourth quarter. That's something we emphasize. We're still working and pushing to make that happen. We have to make that happen. There is no excuse for that."
Curry announced that starting quarterback Drew Little will miss his second straight game due to injuries sustained in the Murray State game. Kelton Hill will make his first start, becoming the third signal caller to start for Georgia State this season.
Hill, a sophomore from Lithia Springs, Ga., rushed for 94 yards, one off the school-record he set a year ago, against South Carolina State. Hill and running backs Donald Russell (85 yards) and Travis Evans (62 yards) combined for 241 of Georgia State's school-record total of 244 yards rushing.
Curry attributed the Panthers' success on the ground to several factors, all of which he hopes to build upon.
"We had our starting offensive line for the first time in a while. That had a lot to do with it," said Curry. "A lot of it was the threat of a running quarterback. A lot of it was the ability of [Travis] Evans and [Donald] Russell to break tackles with tough, hard-nosed running. Russell was as close to 100 percent as he's been since the first game. We had a better job of down field blocking. All of those things figured into it and we have to build on that."
The Panthers are playing South Alabama for the second straight season after falling, 39-34, last season in Mobile, Ala. In that game, Drew Little threw two touchdown passes and ran for two more as the Panthers rallied for 13 fourth-quarter points, but South Alabama's Kendall Houston rushed 31 times for 175 yards, including the key first down that enabled the Jaguars to run out the clock.
"Last season, Kendall Houston, their outstanding running back, ran the ball all over us," said Curry. "And this year, he has a partner, another very good back in Demetre Baker, along with their fine quarterback, C.J. Bennett."
As the Panthers search for that elusive victory, Curry continues to be encouraged by his team's attitude.
"Where we are in this challenge is very demanding," said Curry. "If you are a coach, you have to be an encourager, you have to find the good. We're working hard to stay positive with our team and encourage the good things that are happening but make it very clear that there are certain things that are unacceptable and that we aren't anywhere close to where we need to be overall.
"We continue to work, and I am really pleased that the effort continues to be encouraging, the enthusiasm on the practice field is genuine, and the performances are improving on the field. We will get to where we learn to win again."
The Panthers look forward to an exciting game day atmosphere for their second Homecoming game at the Georgia Dome. Georgia State won last year's inaugural Homecoming, 37-10 over Morehead State.
"We love seeing students, friends and family in the stands," said sophomore outside linebacker Mark Hogan. "It makes you play better. It's something that shouldn't affect the game that much. But college football is about momentum and having a good crowd definitely helps a team."
Live radio coverage for Saturday's game is available on the GSU Radio Network, including Atlanta flagship Newstalk 1160 AM, as well as WMLB 1690 AM. Tickets are available online at GeorgiaStateSports.com or by calling 866.GA.STATE.