ATLANTA – Before a crowd of 20,351 at Georgia State Stadium, senior quarterback Dan Ellington threw a school-record five touchdown passes and the Panthers used a late fourth-quarter stop to hold on for a 48-42 win over Furman on Saturday night.
Georgia State improved to 2-0 for the first time in program history following the upset win over Tennessee last week in Knoxville.
"I knew it would be a fight. I knew we would have to go out there and fight," head coach Shawn Elliott said. "We faced adversity. We did not fold. We did not flinch. We struck back.
"It was a pretty good day, but it was a tough day," Elliott continued. "It has been an incredible seven days. It is the first time Georgia State football has started 2-0. I am so proud of our guys. They deserve all the credit for this win. It was a total team effort, even though it was not sharp."
Ellington threw his five touchdowns to five different receivers, going 29-of-37 for a career-high 362 yards. He also rushed 15 times for 86 yards, and his 448 total yards of offense is the third-most in a single-game in program history.
Georgia State’s 48 points scored were the second-most in school history and only behind the 55 scored against Savannah State during the program’s inaugural year of 2010. The Panthers combined for 566 total yards which is tied for fourth-most in GSU annals.
After falling behind 20-3, Georgia State scored 28 straight points to take its first lead three minutes into the second half.
Trailing 20-17 at the half, GSU took the opening kickoff and marched 85 yards on eight plays. Ellington had a 16-yard run down to the Furman 26, and then his 26-yard touchdown pass to Sam Pinckney gave the Panthers their first lead at 24-20 three minutes into the second half.
The GSU defense used a sack by Dontae Wilson and a pass breakup by Remy Lazarus to force a three-and-out, setting up another Panther touchdown. Ellington hit Devin Gentry for a 43-yard completion down to the 5-yard line, and on third down, he found tight Roger Carter for the 2-yard touchdown pass to put the Panthers up 30-20 with seven minutes to play in the third quarter.
Furman pulled within 38-28 with a touchdown and two-point conversion, but the Panthers answered with Ellington's 20-yard touchdown to tight end Aubry Payne to move ahead 38-28 late in the third quarter.
After another Furman touchdown, Georgia State finally found a little breathing room on an Ellington-to-Cornelius McCoy 44-yard touchdown over the middle and Brandon Wright's 38-yard field, which made it 48-35 with seven minutes to play. But after Furman scored with 3:26 left, the Panthers had to make one last stop when the Paladins got the ball back on their own 10-yard line with 2:18 to play. The GSU defense held on four downs, including an incomplete pass on 4th-and-5 from the 15, to seal the win.
Georgia State got off to a slow start both offensively and defensively and fell behind the Paladins 20-3 before scoring two late touchdowns to pull within 20-17 at the intermission.
The Panthers’ first touchdown came on a 16-play, 94-yard drive, capped by Tra Barnett’s 18-yard scoring run. That pulled GSU within 20-10 with 2:47 left in the half.
After the Panthers forced a punt, they took over at their own 34 with 1:27 on the clock. Ellington hit McCoy with three straight completions to the Furman 30 and then connected with Pinckney to the 14. On 2nd-and-6 from the 10 with time running down, Ellington found Terrance Dixon over the middle, and Dixon stretched the ball over the goal line for the score on the final play of the half.
“You saw Terrance catch that ball and will himself in there. He stretched his arms out and put that ball across,” Elliott said. “The momentum swing at that point was amazing. Just the way he got in, zeros on the clock. We head in with great momentum for the second half and we understand we really can take control.”
Cornelius McCoy (10 catches, 143 yards), Dixon (8 catches, 68 yards), and Pinckney (7 catches, 80 yards) all set career-high for receptions and yards, while Dixon and Pinckney earned their first touchdown catches.
“Let me tell you, the crowd was amazing,” Elliott said. “I want you to know, the students in the north end zone were FANTASTIC. I felt the energy coming from the stands. I could feel the excitement in the voices and the cheering. The band was phenomenal.
“I’m telling you, this was a great football atmosphere and I would love to see it continue because it can only grow.”
Furman quarterback Darren Grainger went 16-of-25 for 323 yards and four touchdowns, while Devin Wynn led the Paladin ground attack with 13 rushes for 83 yards.
Georgia State will return to the road for its next two games traveling to Kalamazoo, Mich., next Saturday to face Western Michigan at 7 p.m. The Panthers return home for the annual homecoming game on Oct. 5, facing Arkansas State at 3:30 p.m.