Defense makes stops Georgia State’s offense needs, as Panthers defeat Army

With possessions at a premium and the Army offense crunching minutes and yardage, Georgia State coach Shawn Elliott was looking for a couple of second-half stops Saturday night. If that happened, his prolific offense would do the rest.

He got them and that proved to be enough. Georgia State stopped Army on two of its three second-half possessions and the Panthers scored twice, which gave them a 28-21 win at Georgia State Stadium.

“For us to have the stop was all we needed,” Elliott said. “We were so comfortable offensively, we felt if we could just get that stop, get that extra possession, we could put the heat back on them, and that’s exactly what happened.”

The first stop came when Georgia State forced the Black Knights to punt with 13:09 left in the game. That allowed the Panthers to drive 81 yards in 11 plays and take the lead on an 8-yard pass from Dan Ellington to Aubrey Payne. Ellington found Roger Carter for a two-point conversion pass.

The other stop came after Army had driven to the Georgia State 28 with a minute remaining. Quavian White jumped high to intercept a fourth-and-4 pass with 46 seconds left to end the drive. Georgia State (5-2) ran out the clock to nail down its third consecutive win.

“The way they were controlling the clock, (Georgia State’s offense) was getting one possession a quarter,” defensive captain Remy Lazarus said. “After the first drive where they scored, we just went to the sideline and was like, ‘Two stops will win it.’ If you go back and look at the film, two stops actually won it. We knew they were going to hold the ball for a long time. That’s just the kind of offense they run. We knew two stops would win it and we got those two stops we needed.

Ellington completed 20 of 28 passes for 232 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 39 yards. Tra Barnett carried 17 times for 108 yards and one touchdown. The Panthers had 279 total yards, with 232 of that coming on the ground.

Army (3-4) controlled the clock, holding the ball for 38:08, rushed for 278 yards and had 343 total yards. Connor Slomka carried 10 times for 89 yards and quarterback Kelvin Hopkins rushed 20 times for 70 yards and completed 6 of 10 passes for 65 yards.

Georgia State linebacker Trajan Stephens-McQueen set a school record with 20 tackles. Nose guard Dontae Wilson had a career-high 10 tackles.

The game began in a steady rain, which tapered off and eventually stopped midway in the second quarter. Despite the wet football, Georgia State was able to effectively throw the ball, with Ellington completing 12 of 17 for 150 yards and two touchdowns, both to Sam Pinckney.

Georgia State scored first after both teams failed on fourth-down conversions. The Panthers took advantage of the short field and drove 57 yards in four plays, with Ellington connecting with Pinckney, with did a nice job keeping his foot in bounds.

Army answered with a nine-play drive that took 5:29 and was completed when Sandy McCoy dove over the line for a touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the 2.

Georgia State responded by driving 11 plays to the Army 2, but Ellington lost a slippery ball, and Army’s Cole Christiansen recovered.

The Black Knights pushed the ball to the 44 when Jakobi Buchanan had the ball stripped by Georgia State’s Victor Heyward and recovered by Lazarus. Georgia State converted the mistake into points when Ellington and Pinckney hooked up for a 12-yard touchdown and a 14-7 lead.

Army scored again on a 12-play, 75-yard drive that took 6:26. McCoy scored his second touchdown on an 8-yard second-effort run.

The Black Knights reeled off another long drive to open the second half. They drove 75 yards in 12 plays, taking 6:43 off the clock, and scored when Jalen Moy ran 16 yards on a reverse, giving Army a 21-14 lead.

Georgia State answered with a 16-play 75-yard drive that drained 6:29. Barnett scored from the 1 with 1:48 left in the third quarter, but Brandon Wright’s extra point drifted wide right and Army retained a 21-20 lead. The touchdown was the 13th of Barnett’s career, tying the school record.

“The effort and toughness we had to go out there and beat this Army team was a joy to watch,” Elliott said. “I tried to tell them before the game when you face an offense like those guys present, it is going to be a tough and physical ballgame. That Army bunch is a tough outfit. I am so glad to get that one behind us with a great victory. We are sitting here at 5-2. I have no idea what the future holds for us.”

The Panthers lost senior linebacker Ed Curney with a left leg injury in the first quarter. He was later taken via cart to the locker room.