Fourth-quarter meltdown sends Georgia State to fifth consecutive loss

Georgia State quarterback Darren Grainger runs against Old Dominion on Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023, in Norfolk, Va. Old Dominion defeated Georgia State 25-24. (Photo by Ivan Konon/Georgia State Athletics)

Credit: Ivan Konon/Georgia State Athletics

Credit: Ivan Konon/Georgia State Athletics

Georgia State quarterback Darren Grainger runs against Old Dominion on Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023, in Norfolk, Va. Old Dominion defeated Georgia State 25-24. (Photo by Ivan Konon/Georgia State Athletics)

The misery index never has been higher at Georgia State this season after Saturday’s fourth-quarter meltdown against Old Dominion.

The Panthers wasted a 21-point lead in their final regular-season game and lost a 25-24 decision Saturday in Norfolk, Virginia, when Old Dominion scored a touchdown as time expired. It was the fifth consecutive loss for Georgia State and hurt even worse than last week’s 42-point loss to LSU.

“Any time you lose five straight, there’s no good feeling you could find,” Georgia State coach Shawn Elliott said. “It’s just a huge, huge, huge gut punch.”

Georgia State (6-6, 3-5 Sun Belt) now awaits its bowl assignment, should one be forthcoming. Old Dominion (6-6, 5-3) was able to become bowl eligible by winning its last two games of the regular season as time expired.

The fourth quarter, particularly the final four minutes, could have been scripted by Stephen King. It was a disaster for Georgia State.

After Liam Rickman’s 22-yard field goal gave the Panthers a 24-14 lead, they forced Old Dominion to turn it over on downs when Tylon Dunlap came up with a sack. Georgia State took over at the 24, but was unable to move the ball and settled for a 39-yard field-goal try that was blocked by Rasheed Reason.

Old Dominion was able to move closer when North Paulding High graduate Ethan Sanchez cut the lead to 24-17 with 1:37 remaining. The Monarchs failed to recover an onside kick, and GSU had to start at the 9. After Grainger took a 6-yard loss on the first play, he could do nothing with a high snap and was swarmed in the end zone for a safety.

Following the free kick, Old Dominion applied the heat with 43-yard completion from Wilson to Reymello Murphy. Four plays later, on fourth-and-goal from the 3, Wilson ran it up the middle and scored standing as time expired.

The Georgia State defense came up with a school-record eight sacks, created four turnovers on downs and had an interception by Gavin Pringle. Justin Abraham had 10 tackles and 1.5 sacks, Jontrey Hunter had nine tackles and half a sack and Henry Bryant had two sacks.

“Our defense played phenomenal,” Elliott said. “We kept putting them in bad situations. Our defense played great. They played lights out.”

Defensive lineman Tylon Dunlap, who had one of the sacks, said, “I feel like today was one of our better performances. We Just couldn’t finish it off.”

The offense never was the same after 1,000-yard rusher Marcus Carroll left the game in the second quarter with an undisclosed injury. He had 15 carries for 57 yards when he departed.

Grainger later hurt his right hand, which impaired his ability to throw on the cold day. He still completed 26 of 36 passes for 203 yards and two touchdowns – both to tight end Ahmon Green. But Grainger was intercepted twice, and without the threat of the powerful Carroll, he was limited to 16 yards on 14 carries. Most of that yardage came on a 16-yard touchdown in the first quarter.

“It was a huge effect,” Elliott said. “And I don’t think Darren was anywhere close to 100%. It was hard to drive any momentum. It felt like we were playing right into their hands. They knew what we were dealing with, and they were making us deliver the ball, and we couldn’t deliver the throws.”

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