CHARLOTTE –Glenn Smith rushed for a career-high 90 yards and two touchdowns, and the Panther defense pitched the first shutout in school history as GSU won at Charlotte 28-0.
The win is the first for the Panthers (1-2) under first-year head coach Shawn Elliott.
Penny Hart tied the school record with 11 receptions for 141 yards, including a 32-yard touchdown catch. Quarterback Conner Manning passed for 250 yards on 26 completions, directing a balanced offense that did not commit a turnover.
Sixth-year senior safety Bryan Williams had two interceptions, both in the end zone, to lead the strong effort by the Georgia State defense, which held Charlotte (0-4) to 273 yards of offense. Williams’ two picks tied a GSU record held by several players.
“What a great way to get our first win of the year,” Elliott said. “Defensively we played well all night. We never gave them anything cheap. We had numerous true freshmen out there making plays. I am just proud because it was a great team effort.”
The game featured one of the craziest plays in Georgia State history. With the Panthers leading 14-0 in the fourth quarter, Brandon Wright’s 25-yard field goal attempt was tipped at the line of scrimmage. A Charlotte player attempted to field the ball in the end zone but fumbled it, and GSU offensive lineman Shamarious Gilmore recovered it in the end zone for the touchdown. That gave the Panthers a 21-0 lead with 14 minutes to play.
After a scoreless first quarter, Georgia State got on the board early in the second on Smith’s 3-yard touchdown run that capped a 10-play, 66-yard drive. Manning hit five straight passes on the drive with three completions for 25 yards to Hart and two to Smith for 26 yards. Smith covered the other 15 yards on the ground, and his first touchdown of the season gave GSU a 7-0 lead with 12:29 to play in the first half.
That was still the score when Charlotte missed a 54-yard field attempt, giving the Panthers the ball at their 36 with three minutes to go in the half. On third-and-13, Manning hit Hart for 20 yards and a first down. After consecutive short completions to freshman Tamir Jones, Manning found Hart down the right side line, and Hart made a nice spin move and then dragged his defender into the end zone for a 32-yard touchdown. That gave Georgia State a 14-0 lead with 44 seconds on the clock.
Charlotte quarterback Hasaan Klugh hooked up with Mark Quattlebaum for a 52-yard completion and a 49ers first down at the GSU 12 with 16 seconds left in the half, but the Georgia State defense held as Williams intercepted Klugh in the end zone. That sent the Panthers into the locker room with a 14-0 advantage.
Smith took over as the primary ball-carrier after starter Taz Bateman left with an injury early in the game and Kyler Neal already out for the game. Smith carried the ball a school-record 31 times and nearly matched Bateman’s 100-yard effort from last week at Penn State. Smith, who also caught four passes for 39 yards for a total of 129 all-purpose yards, finished the scoring with a 1-yard touchdown run with 22 seconds to playl.
“There’s nothing easy about getting wins,” Elliott said. “A lot of adversity happened to us tonight, but our guys continued to strive and believe and build off one another – the offense off the defense and the defense off the offense. It’s a special feeling when you see guys go out there and work toward a common goal and achieve it.”
Georgia State heads into its second open date in three weeks due to Memphis’ cancellation of its’ game at GSU that was scheduled for Sept. 30. The Panthers’ next game is Oct. 7 at Coastal Carolina in the Sun Belt Conference opener, and their next home game is the Oct. 21 Homecoming contest vs. Troy.