ATLANTA- Georgia State finished the season with a 35-14 loss to in-state rival Georgia Southern Saturday on Senior Day at Georgia State Stadium.
Dan Ellington completed 20-of-33 passes to nine different receivers for 170 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Freshman Cornelius McCoy had a strong showing for the Panthers (2-10, 1-7 Sun Belt), with five catches for 74 yards.
Shai Werts led the Eagles (9-3, 6-2 Sun Belt) with 105 passing yards and two touchdowns, to go along with 75 rushing yards and a touchdown. Wesley Fields also had a strong showing, rushing for 151 and a touchdown.
After a scoreless first quarter, Georgia Southern opened up the second by hitting a 39-yard field goal to put the Eagles up 3-0. The defensive battle wore on until Georgia Southern broke through again on a 38-yard touchdown pass to Darion Anderson, giving them a 10-0 advantage.
Georgia State saw its first scoring chance on its next drive. Seth Paige ran the ball 10 yards down to the Eagles’ 33 and then Ellington hit McCoy for an 8-yard pass over the middle to put the Panthers in field-goal range. But Rashad Byrd blocked Brandon Wright’s field-goal and Monquavion Brinson returned the ball into Panthers territory, where the Eagles settled for a 49-yard field goal and a 13-0 halftime lead.
Georgia Southern added to its lead in the third quarter, scoring straight points on an 18-yard touchdown run by Werts, capped off by a 2-point conversion, and then a 58-yard pass to Colby Ransom on the first play of the Eagles’ next drive.
Georgia State scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, the first coming on a 7-yard touchdown pass to Devin Gentry, capping off an 18 play, 90-yard drive. Georgia Southern answered with a 63-touchdown run by Wesley Fields, and the Panthers came right back with a 14 play, 75-yard drive, ending with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Tamir Jones.
“The game was certainly not the way we hoped it would had gone,” head coach Shawn Elliott said. “Coming into the game we were down a couple guys – we lost a right tackle, lost a safety, lost Tra Barnett in practice. We put together a lineup as best we could and went and fought as hard as we could. But we made some blunders that were unfortunate. I thought our defense came out and played well in the first half and kept us within striking distance.
“We couldn’t solidify the run game in the first half at all,” Elliott continued. “But I thought we had an opportunity if we could just piece together a drive in the second half – we took a chance with the onside kick in the second half, we said all week if we got a look we were going to take it and the ball didn’t get the bounce like we thought. Southern was able to punch it in from there and distance themselves. It was a tough ballgame.”
Georgia Southern snapped Georgia State’s three-game winning streak in the series, but the Panthers still lead the all-time series 3-2.
With this season in the books, punter Brandon Wright set a Sun Belt Conference season record with a 48.20-yard punting average, bettering the previous mark of 47.8 set by Idaho’s Austin Rehkow in 2014.
“I’d like to say how much I appreciate what our seniors have done for us,” Elliott said. “Those guys – I think we have 12 that are leaving this year – what they’ve seen and what they’ve gone though, and I remember when they arrived they were lifting under a tent. They made the first bowl game, then they get their first bowl win and finished 3-1 against Georgia Southern. I really just appreciate what they’ve done. I just told them in the locker room they laid a great foundation that they can’t even see right now. They can’t see the growth and some of the other things right now because of the hurt in this game that we played, but I appreciate every last one of them to go through what they’ve gone through.”