Georgia State takes national stage against South Alabama

The Panthers are going for their first home win in prime time.

After its three-game win streak concluded with a 34-10 bashing by Troy, Georgia State plays its second consecutive game at its new stadium Thursday night, when South Alabama visits town.

GSU had gone 51 days between home contests before Saturday, though its return was anything but glorious.

Appearing as one of the Sun Belt Conference’s elite, the Troy game was a letdown, or as coach Shawn Elliott labeled it, demoralizing. A week after setting multiple offensive school records, that unit looked dysfunctional, with quarterback Conner Manning struggling to make plays and receiver Penny Hart blanketed.

“I played terrible,” Manning said. “And it affected our offense. Just a lot of missed opportunities today. … I’ve got to make throws.”

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The Panthers averaged 34 points during their three-game winning streak. They averaged 469.3 yards, looking like perhaps the top offense in the Sun Belt. Against Troy, GSU scored 10 points with 307 yards. Its one turnover equaled that of the previous three games. 

“Our losses are lessons that you learn from,” Elliott said. “I think it’s going to be a really valuable for everybody about how we prepare after you have some type of success. You look back, we have three wins, you’ve got people patting us on the back, telling us ‘you’re this,’ and all that. In all actuality, we competed and we pulled out some victories. By any stretch of the imagination have we arrived.” 

But Thursday is a new day. GSU is 3-1 in Sun Belt play, opposed to the Jaguars’ 2-1. Since a 1-3 start, the Jaguars have discovered themselves. South Alabama’s conference wins have come in the past two weeks, when it upset Troy and won a shootout with Louisiana-Monroe. 

Even following the Trojans disaster, GSU’s offense fares well statistically. Manning averages 252.7 yards per game and leads the Sun Belt with a 66.5 completion percentage. Hart, arguably the best receiver in school history, leads the conference with 7.8 catches per game and 97.8 receiving yards per game, both top 15 nationally. 

They’ll need that group to rebound Thursday, especially in the red zone, where the Panthers were 2-for-5 in scoring opportunities against Troy. Elliott said postgame that the team would focus heavily on the red zone at Sunday’s practice. Thursday will be a test to see how quickly the Panthers can bounce back. 

“It’s really frustrating,” Elliott said. “You get down in there, you have the opportunity to put it in, and for some reason it just doesn’t happen. … Just a continual build-up of frustration in the red zone.”

The Panthers are 0-2 at home. They need three wins in their final five to qualify for a bowl. South Alabama might be the most favorable matchup left on schedule, putting additional importance on an already critical meeting.

The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPNU.

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