Panthers’ defense looking to build off second straight strong showing

Khadrice Rollins

krollins@ajc.com

For much of the game against Appalachian State, Georgia State’s defense would not bend or break.

The Panthers (0-4, 0-1 Sun Belt) were one year removed from allowing the Mountaineers (3-2, 1-0) to rack up nearly 500 yards of total offense and pick up a 37-3 victory in the Georgia Dome. This time around, it was not as easy for Appalachian State’s offense.

Although the result was the same, GSU’s defense kept the Mountaineers out of the end zone through the first two quarters and only surrendered 17 points in the road defeat. But at the end of the day, players were still not happy.

“I feel terrible,” safety Bryan Williams said. “We should have had that one. … But we can’t let App State beat us twice. We are going to bury that, bury that film and start over for Texas State.”

After getting run through by Ball State (3-2, 0-1 Mid-American) and Air Force (4-0, 1-0 Mountain West), GSU has been able to slow down its opponents on the ground as of late. The Panthers held Wisconsin (4-1, 0-1 Big Ten) to just 3.8 yards per carry in their Sept. 17 meeting and bottled up the Mountaineers’ rushing attack for a majority of the contest.

Excluding a 45-yard touchdown run, the Panthers allowed 173 rushing yards on 47 attempts — just 3.7 yards per carry. Defensive coordinator Jesse Minter said he was pleased with that effort.

“We’re real close to being the type of unit that we want to be,” Minter said. “There’s a few things we got to get cleaned up.”

Saturday, GSU will be tested in a different way by conference foe Texas State (2-2), who will look to spread it out and go “sideline to sideline.” Even though they will be attacked more through the air, there are plenty of aspects of the last two games the Panthers will look to build off and learn from.

One of the biggest positives of recent was the speed on defense, which Minter said was one of the team’s strengths. Whether it was in the secondary or on the line, they were able to move around the field quickly to make plays.

Minter also credited his veteran defensive line for being a key part of the performance. Williams echoed that sentiment, saying the guys up front were able to “create a new line of scrimmage,” which freed up the linebackers to make plays. He added that he wants his teammates to carry over that style of play this week.

“We got to continue that aggressiveness and continue that physicality,” Williams said.

Despite the clear improvement from the unit the last two games, the Panthers are still winless and the defense has been forced to spend at least 35 minutes on the field in each outing.

With a the possibility of reaching consecutive bowl games slowing slipping away, this is is something GSU will look to address.

Minter said he is looking to keep players fresh by rotating them as much as possible and improving the depth of the defense through competitive practice. Players said how long they’re on the field is not too important if they are doing what they need to do.

“As a defense, if we’re on the field it doesn’t really matter to us, we just got to give our offense back the ball,” said linebacker Michael Shaw, who had his first career interception last week. “If we’re there the whole 60 minutes it doesn’t matter to us, as long as we don’t let them score.”

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