And the Panthers, who became bowl-eligible with last week’s win, likely enhanced their reputation among those who decide bowl destinations.
The defensive numbers were strong: five sacks, eight tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, two interceptions, 57 yards against the run. Twice Troy turned it over on downs. The Panthers now have 34 tackles for loss over the past three games and a school-record 84 this season. The have 34 sacks, one short of the school record set last season.
Chris Moore led the team with seven tackles and forced a fumble. Dontae Wilson and Akeem Smith, two nose tackles, each had six tackles. Jamil Muhammad had two sacks and a fumble recovery for a touchdown – all in the fourth quarter.
“The momentum in the stadium definitely changed,” Muhammad said. “I think everybody in the stadium could feel that. We’ve kept preaching finish the game, finish the game, because we’ve been in spots where we’ve been playing well and then we finished a little sloppy. So I think that was the biggest focus of just finishing the game strong.”
It was a tough week for Troy (5-7, 3-5), where coach Chip Lindsey was fired to begin the week. The Trojans lost their third consecutive game and were unable to become the fifth Sun Belt team to gain bowl eligibility.
Georgia State ran for 247 yards, with Jamyest Williams carrying 15 times for 108 yards -- giving him 1,063 for his career -- and a 50-yard touchdown and Tucker Gregg running 17 times for 83 yards. Quarterback Darren Grainger was 11-for-22 passing for 140 yards and two touchdowns.
Troy quarterback Gunnar Watson completed 21 of 38 passes for 287 yards and was intercepted twice.
Georgia State scored first on a 13-yard pass from Grainger to Aubry Payne, the 11th touchdown of his career and fifth of the season.
The Panthers made a mistake after forcing Troy to go three-and-out. Sure-handed return man Quavian White muffed a punt and Troy’s Jordan Anthony recovered at the 27.
But the Trojans gave it back on the next play. Tez Johnson caught a 4-yard pass, only to have the ball stripped by Chris Moore and recovered by GSU’s Blake Carroll. The Panthers missed a chance to pad the lead when Grainger had the ball knocked loose at the 1, and Troy’s Will Choloh recovered in the end zone.
After another three-and-out, Georgia State upped the lead to 14-0 on a 26-yard throw from Grainger to Sam Pinckney, who stretched out for the catch and kept his foot in the end zone for his first touchdown of the season.
Troy had its longest play of the first half – a 39-yard pass from Watson to Deshon Stoudemire – and push the ball to the GSU 40. But two plays later Watson, under pressure from Hardrick Willis, was intercepted by Antavious Lane. It was the fourth pick of the season for Lane and the eighth of his career, setting the school’s career record.
Georgia State turned the turnover into points, with Noel Ruiz kicking a 43-yarder with 2:46 left for a 17-0 lead.
Troy made the score 17-3 at halftime when Brooks Buce hit a season-long 48-yarder.
Georgia State added a 45-yard field goal from Ruiz on the opening drive of the second half to extend the lead to 20-3, then put the game away when Carroll sacked Watson to cause a fumble, which Muhammad picked up and ran 72 yards for a touchdown.
“Jamil told me earlier in the week he was going to get him some,” Elliott said. “He said, ‘I got some more for you.’ And he delivered.”
Ruiz added a 50-yard field goal, the longest of his Georgia State career, and Williams scored on a 50-yard run to close the scoring for the Panthers.