Jarrett Guarantano of the Tennessee Volunteers throws a pass against Georgia State Panthers in the season opener at Neyland Stadium on August 31, 2019 in Knoxville, Tennessee. (Photo by Silas Walker/Getty Images)
Photo: Silas Walker/Getty Images
Photo: Silas Walker/Getty Images

Defense is Georgia State’s easily identifiable problem

It doesn’t require a deep statistical dive to see where the Georgia State football team has its biggest issue. The number 41.5 — as in points per games allowed — makes it obvious why the Panthers have lost their past two starts. 

“We’re giving up a ton of points, which is something you can’t do,” coach Shawn Elliott said. “You don’t have to be a football coach to understand that. We don’t need to get into a race and have to score all these points. We’ve got to find a solution this open week and find it fast.”

This is the ideal time for Georgia State to have an off week. The Panthers (2-2) need a break after back-to-back road games that prevented him from getting home until around 5 a.m. each Sunday. The additional time off gives Elliott and his staff a chance to find a way to stop the bleeding that has tainted the 2-0 start. 

“We certainly need an open day,” Elliott said. “We gave them off (on Monday). Let them get their feet back under them. There are lot of coaches here trying to figure out some things and do some things to help us be successful on the field. This is a perfect time for our open day.” 

A lot of attention will be focused on the defense. Georgia State has allowed 244.8 yards rushing, ninth in the 10-team Sun Belt Conference, and 248.8 yards passing per game, ranking them fifth. The Panthers are No. 8 in total defense and No. 9 in scoring defense.

“Certainly our run defense has got to improve,” Elliott said. “From a defensive standpoint, there’s not a whole lot of good that’s come out of it, to tell you the truth. We’re giving up quite a bit of rushing yardage and passing-wise about the same.”

Two weeks ago, the Panthers were gashed by long runs against Western Michigan and could not keep matching scores. Georgia State allowed 450 rushing yards and allowed LeVante Bellamy to run for 196 yards and three touchdowns — all of them longer than 36 yards.

Last week against Texas State, Georgia State couldn’t come up with the key stop when needed. Particularly painful was a pass-interference call in the end zone on a fourth-and-6 in the first overtime that allowed Texas State to extend — and ultimately win — the game in triple overtime.

The loss overshadowed a solid performance by the offense. The Panthers were able to run the ball — Destin Coates rushed for 95 yards and Tra Barnett ran for 55, allowing him to surpass the 1,000-yard career mark. Quarterback Dan Ellington threw for 219 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 53. 

“From the most part, the energy and effort was there from our program and coaches,” Elliott said. “We had an opportunity in overtime to get the victory, but wasn’t able to do it. Ultimately we didn’t perform well enough to get the conference ‘W.’ ”

Georgia State plays again Oct. 5 against Arkansas State (2-2) in its home conference opener.  

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