ATLANTA -- As Georgia State faces its annual test against a Power Five conference team, head coach Shawn Elliott welcomes the challenge as the Panthers face NC State Saturday at 12:30 p.m. at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, N.C.
"I've been on both sides of these games. I want a big stage," Elliott said. "I want them to enjoy the moment and the opportunity that we have. We're going up there to compete and do everything we can to try to get a win."
Both teams are coming off close victories over Top 5 FCS programs as Georgia State downed Kennesaw State 24-20 while the Wolfpack knocked off James Madison 24-13.
NC State is led by one of the nation's top quarterbacks in senior Ryan Finley, who passed for more than 3,500 yards with 17 touchdowns last season.
"It's a well coached football team," Elliott said. "They've got a heckuva quarterback, and a heckuva team for that matter. You look at them all the way around, and they're going to be tough.
"Defensively, they lost a lot of players. I think they had seven or eight players drafted, including their whole defensive front. But they still present big problems. They're still massive individuals inside that we've got to move, and we've got to protect our edge. We've got our work cut out for us."
Elliott praised his own quarterback, Dan Ellington, the junior college transfer who enjoyed a strong debut in Georgia State blue. Ellington passed for 187 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winner with 41 seconds left, while rushing for 77 yards on 18 carries.
"You saw him eluding pass rushers, making plays with his feet and delivering throws," Elliott said. "I think he was 20-for-28, so he made good decisions with his throws. I thought Dan was very calm under pressure, right up until the very end. The moment wasn't too big for him."
But Elliott looks for improvement from the offense as a whole.
"Overall, from an offensive standpoint, it was a very so-so performance," he said. "You want to see consistency, and there wasn't a whole lot of that. So we've got to improve in every phase.
Ellington was the most prominent, but by no means the only, newcomer who made a significant impact. He threw the winning touchdown pass to another junior college transfer in Diondre Champaigne. And South Carolina transfer Christian Owens was the Panthers' leading receiver with six catches for 70 yards, including his six-yard touchdown with three seconds left in the first half. He also two key receptions on the winning drive.
"A lot of new faces out there," Elliott said. "I think we played eight true freshmen. I told them in our meetings, There are going to be new names brought up tonight that people have never heard it, so who's it going to be? We're always trying to build up our roster as much as we can, and then we've got to develop these guys."
Saturday's game will be televised by the ACC's RSN, including FOX Sports Southeast in the Atlanta market. Live streaming is available on the FOX Sports Go app in the ACC footprint and on WatchESPN outside the ACC area. Radio coverage on the Georgia State Radio Network can be heard on 92.9 THE GAME in Atlanta.