ATLANTA -- Georgia State rallied from an early 17-0 deficit but came up just short at the end, dropping a 37-34 Homecoming thriller against Coastal Carolina at “Pete” Petit Field at Georgia State Stadium.
Tra Barnett led the way for the Panthers (2-6, 1-3 Sun Belt), rushing for a career-high 161 yards and two touchdowns, the second most rushing yards in a game in Georgia State history. Penny Hart caught six passes for 118 yards and a touchdown. It was Hart’s 11th career 100-yard game, moving him into fourth place in Sun Belt Conference history in career receiving yards.
Dan Ellington went 14-for-25 for 231 yards and one passing touchdown as the Panthers piled up 521 yards on 59 plays, averaging 8.8 yards per play.
CJ Marble rushed for 128 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries for Coastal Carolina (5-3, 2-2 Sun Belt).
The Chanticleers took a 3-point lead on a 23-yard field goal with three minutes to play. Georgia State drove into Coastal Carolina territory, but on 4th-and-6 from the CCU 36, Ellington just missed connecting with Hart down the right sideline to end the game.
“You guys have watched Penny Hart play. He is everything you want in a football player,” GSU head coach Shawn Elliott said. “It went off his fingertips today. And you’ve got to lift a young man like that
“The way we come down and have a chance to win that football game with the last throw – you’ll write Georgia State is 2-6, but there’s a lot of things we take out of a tough game,” Elliott continued. “It’s certainly a disappointing defeat because when you look at the stats, we had 59 plays for 521 yards - you would’ve thought we had a pretty good day. But it turned out we came out on the wrong end and Coastal Carolina made the plays when they needed to, and we couldn’t get them off the field.”
After falling behind 17-0 early, Ellington found Hart on a slant over the middle for a touchdown, cutting the Chanticleers’ lead to 17-7 with two minutes to play in the first quarter.
A field goal by Coastal Carolina put them up 20-7 before Seth Paige punched the ball in from the 1-yard line to cap a 15-play, 71-yard drive and cut the Chanticleers' lead to seven at the end of the first half.
Georgia State tied the game on Barnett’s 75-yard touchdown run on the first play of the second half. The run was the third longest in Georgia State history.
After the Panthers’ defense forced a punt, Georgia State took its first lead of the game, 27-20, on a 42-yard touchdown run by Ellington, who rushed for 70 yards on nine carries.
But on Coastal Carolina’s next possession, Ky-Jon Tyler ran for a 28-yard touchdown to tie the game back up at 27-27.
Georgia State’s next offensive drive was cut short by a fumble, but the defense took the ball right back on a fumble forced by Marterious Allen and recovered by Ed Curney. The big play on defense led to another one on offense, a 42-yard touchdown run by Barnett, his second of the game, to put the Panthers back in the lead 34-27 after three quarters.
The back-and-forth battle continued as Coastal Carolina tied the game 34-34 on a 3-yard touchdown run by Alex James with 9:46 remaining in the fourth quarter.
A 48-yard pass to Marable landed Coastal Carolina back in scoring position, but a strong defensive red zone
“The disappointment alone is probably the number one lesson that we’re going to learn from this because we see a lot of guys in that locker room that have extreme care for playing this game and playing for this team,” Elliott said. “There’s a lot of hurt in the locker room. There’s a lot of hurt in me sitting right here.
“It’s a tough game. Every single day there’s a winner and there’s a loser, that’s just how it is. Unfortunately, we came out on the wrong end today.”
With his 118 receiving yards today, Hart raised his career total to 2,852 yards, passing current NFL player J.D. McKissic from Arkansas State to move into fourth place in Sun Belt history. Along with Hart’s former teammate Robert Davis, the current Washington Redskins receiver who was in attendance today and had 3,391 career receiving yards for the Panthers, Georgia State boasts two of the top four receivers in Sun Belt history.
Hart’s 36-yard touchdown is No. 20 of his career, including 19 receiving touchdowns.
Barnett’s 161-yard day, which came on just 11 carries, has been bettered only by Donald Russell’s school-record of 201 yards vs. Rhode Island in 2012.
Ellington rushed for 70 yards, and freshman Seth Paige added 79 yards for a team output of 290 yards, the third-best total in school history, particularly noteworthy since Georgia State started three redshirt freshmen on the offensive line: center Malik Sumter, right guard Pat Bartlett
The Panthers’ 521 yards of total offense also ranks in the top 10 in GSU annals.
Georgia State will be at home again next week, Saturday, Nov. 3, when the Panthers host Texas State at 2 p.m. at Georgia State Stadium.