ATLANTA -- Georgia State defeated ULM 46-14 in a record-setting performance Saturday afternoon at “Pete” Petit Field at Georgia State Stadium, as the Panthers recorded season highs for points and total offense (487 yards) while rushing for a school-record 308 yards in the their Sun Belt Conference opener.
Freshman Seth Paige led the way for GSU (2-3, 1-0 Sun Belt), rushing for 145 yards on just nine carries with two touchdowns, including an 82-yard touchdown run in the second quarter that is the longest run from scrimmage in school history. Paige, now just the second freshman in GSU history to rush for at least 100 yards in a game, ran for the most yards in a game by a GSU player since Donald Russell (201 vs. Rhode Island) and the fourth-most overall.
Georgia State also set a new record for most team rushing yards with 308, with the help of eight different ball carries. The previous record was 301 yards, set in 2011 vs. Campbell.
GSU’s 46 points are the program’s second-most points vs. an FBS opponent, just one point fewer than the Panthers’ scored in last year’s win at ULM, and third-most overall.
“We talk about doing things for the first time around here, and that what’s great about this, we can do things for the very first time and be the change,” head coach Shawn Elliott said. “Most rushing yards in school history, longest run from scrimmage in school history, first punt return for a touchdown in school history. This was a very very good day for us. A very very good day. A very rewarding day.”
Quarterback Dan Ellington was 15-for-18 with a completion percentage of .833, another school record. He threw the ball for 179 yards with a touchdown and rushed for 64 yards on 16 carries and a touchdown.
Georgia State’s defense also turned in a strong performance against ULM (2-3, 0-2 Sun Belt), holding quarterback Caleb Evans, the Sun Belt’s passing leader entering the day, to 136 yards and zero touchdowns. They also took the ball away four times, including two interceptions (Victor Heyward and Chris Bacon) and two forced fumbles (Quavian White and DeAndre Applin).
Heyward, the sophomore outside linebacker, had an interception and a fumble recovery to lead a GSU defense that held the Warhawks to 262 yards of total offense, the third-lowest figure in school history. ULM managed just 43 total yards and one first down in the second half.
“It feels really good to come up here and have played the way we played in all three phases of our football game,” Elliott continued. “It was a ULM team that had some momentum, they are really well coached, they have great skill players, a quarterback in Caleb Evans who is capable of doing something big. I think our defense held them to the third-fewest yards in school history in total yards.”
The firsts continued on special teams as Penny Hart returned a punt for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter, the first punt return for a touchdown in Georgia State’s nine-year history. Hart, with seven catches in the game, also passed Albert Wilson (175), now a wide receiver with the Miami Dolphins, for second in GSU history for career catches. Hart now has 177 career receptions, trailing only Robert Davis (222), who is with the Washington Redskins.
Paige’s record-setting 82-yard run had also broke a record previously held by Wilson, an 80-yard touchdown run in 2013.
Georgia State drove took the opening kickoff and drove 75 yards for a touchdown. On third-and-five at from the GSU 43, Ellington found true freshman Sam Pinckney for a 55-yard completion down the left sideline to the ULM 2. Two plays later, Ellington took it in from the 1-yard line for a 7-0 lead.
ULM’s first possession ended with Heyward’s interception at the GSU 40, and the Panthers converted the turnover into a touchdown, this time a 23-yard scoring run by Tra Barnett, putting GSU up 14-0 midway through the first quarter.
After ULM got on the board on Evans’ 21-yard touchdown run, the Panthers added two more touchdowns as GSU found the end zone on its first four possessions. First, tight end Roger Carter made a great one-handed catch, reaching behind to snag an underthrown pass and cross the goal line. After the defense forced a three-and-out, Paige’s 82-yard touchdown came on the Panthers’ next play and put GSU up 27-7 with 12 minutes to go in the second quarter.
“I am really thrilled to death with the team’s performance,” Elliott said. “We had a meeting last night, and it was really good. I walked out of the meeting, and I went to my room, locked the door and said to myself, “no way we're getting beat tomorrow.” It was a really good feeling. I can’t say enough about the effort.”
Georgia State now faces a short week with a trip to Sun Belt Conference opponent Troy on Thursday, Oct. 4 at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPNU.