KNOXVILLE – Georgia State scored a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns and outrushed Tennessee 213-93 to shock the Volunteers 38-30 on Saturday afternoon at Neyland Stadium.
Georgia State, celebrating just its 10th season of football, knocked off its first SEC opponent and Power 5 opponent by outscoring Tennessee 24-13 in the second half.
“First of all, I will go ahead and say how proud I am of our university and our football program to come in here and do something probably only 108 or 109 players we have on our roster believed we could do,” head coach Shawn Elliott said. “I don’t know if anyone else in the country believed that a program just a mere 10 years old could come in here to Neyland Stadium at the University of Tennessee and beat them. We believed. We notched a signature win for our university and our football program.
“It has been an unbelievable day,” Elliott continued. “I am just so proud of our guys and players because, ultimately, they work so hard to do the things necessary to put us in a position to even to go and compete. It was a joy to sit back and watch the confidence in our guys’ eyes and hearts.”
Senior quarterback Dan Ellington, who finished 11-of-24 for 139 yards and two touchdowns, also added 61 yards on the ground on 14 rushes. His 22-yard touchdown run with 4:45 to play effectively sealed the win.
Tra Barnett led the Panthers on the ground with 95 yards on 21 rushes. His 19-yard touchdown run gave Georgia State a 28-23 lead with 8:56 to play in the game.
After Tennessee took a 23-21 lead on Brent Cimaglia’s 31-yard field goal with 12 minutes to play, Dan Ellington drove the Panthers 75 yards for the go-ahead score. He hit Terrance Dixon with a 14-yard completion for a first down at the UT 30. Barnett gained 11 yards on second down, and then took it to the end zone on the next play.
Tennessee took the ensuing kickoff and moved to out midfield when GSU cornerback Evan Jones sacked Jarrett Guarantano and forced a fumble, which was recovered by the Panthers’ Jhi’Shawn Taylor, setting up Ellington’s touchdown.
Trailing 17-14 at the intermission, the Panthers took the opening kickoff of the second half and drove down the field. Paige had a 15-yard run on the drive, and then Ellington hit Barnett for 15 yards and Payne for 11 yards for a first down at the UT 25. On second down, Devin Gentry took a reverse pitch and raced around the left end for 15 yards, hurdling a defender at the end of the play for a first down at the 6.
Then Ellington found Payne, the junior tight end and transfer from Western Carolina, on the left sideline. Payne caught the ball at the two and dove in for the score, giving the Panthers a 21-17 lead with 10:22 in the third quarter.
“I think that was the most important possession of the game,” Elliott said.
Tennessee answered with two scoring drives but had to settle for a pair of field goals.
Georgia State got off to a strong start in the game, forcing a fumble on Tennessee’s second play from scrimmage and punching it in for an early lead.
Hardrick Willis forced a fumble and Ed Curney recovered at the UT 23. Ellington had a pair of 8-yard runs, and one 3rd-and-goal from the 2-yard line, Seth Paige burst up the middle and into the end zone for the first touchdown of the 2019 season to put the Panthers up 7-0 four minutes into the game.
Tennessee countered with a 16-play, 78-yard drive that lasted 7:42, tying the game on Jarrett Guarantano’s 6-yard touchdown pass to Marquez Callaway. The Vols took the lead on Ty Chander’s 31-yard scoring run with nine seconds left in the first quarter.
The Panthers engineered a long scoring drive midway through the second quarter. After the GSU defense held the Vols on 3 rd-and-1 at the UT 34 to force a punt, Ellington drove the Panthers 81 yards in 16 plays and 6:32, capped by a 17-yard touchdown pass over the middle to Cornelius McCoy. That tied the game at 14-all with three minutes left in the half.
On the drive, Georgia State had three key conversions on the drive. First on 4th-and-1 at the GSU 39, Tra Barnett’s 2-yard run kept the drive alive, and Ellington gained two yards on 3rd-and-1 at the UT 33. Then Ellington hit McCoy for a 12-yard completion and a first down at the UT 18 to set up the touchdown two plays later.
Tennessee managed a 19-yard field goal with just one second in the half to take a 17-14 lead into the locker room.
Georgia State’s home opener is next Saturday, Sept. 7 as the Panthers host Furman at 7 p.m. at Georgia State Stadium. For tickets, visit GeorgiaStateSports.com or call 404-413-4020.