Georgia State fell short in its season opener against No. 19 Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday, and coach Shawn Elliott is old-school enough to shun any discussion of a moral victory. He’s also smart enough to recognize the potential upside of his team, despite the disappointing 34-31 overtime loss at Center Parc Stadium.

“We knew they were good, but we thought we could play with them,” Elliott said. “We thought we could win the football game. It tells me we’ve got a football team that has a chance to go out and make some noise.”

Georgia State showed plenty of grit in the fourth quarter after watching a two-touchdown lead evaporate. Trailing 28-21, the Panthers drove 75 yards in 13 plays and tied the score on a 4-yard run by Destin Coates with 7:37 left.

“It’s like a boxing match. You can lose three rounds and still knock somebody out,” Elliott said. “You’ve got to keep playing. The game doesn’t end at the end of a possession. It ends at zero.”

The Georgia State defense then stopped Louisiana-Lafayette twice in the final minutes, forcing a punt and stopping the Ragin’ Cajuns on downs when Hardrick Willis and Jeffery Clark sacked Levi Lewis on fourth down. That gave GSU the ball at the 47 with 1:41 left, but the Panthers stalled and had to punt and send the game to overtime.

The Panthers had the first possession, but settled for a 25-yard Noel Ruiz field goal in overtime. Georgia State could not hold Louisiana-Lafayette, and Elijah Mitchell ended the game on a 12-yard touchdown run.

“I feel we got worn down on both sides of the ball,” Elliott said. “We had a chance to end it in regulation. When you don’t stick it in on the first overtime, you’ve got to hold on.”

Coates led the Georgia State attack with 34 carries for a career-high 150 yards and one touchdown.

Quad Brown, getting his first start at quarterback, completed 22 of 39 passes for 196 yards and one touchdown, with one interception, and ran 15 times for 64 yards and one touchdown. He distributed the ball to 10 receivers, four each to Terrance Dixon, Sam Pinckney and Coates.

The defense got nine tackles from safety Antavious Lane, seven from inside linebacker Blake Carroll and seven tackles, one interception and two breakups from cornerback Quavian White. Victor Heyward also had an interception.

But Louisiana-Lafayette’s Mitchell was tough to stop in the second half, when he ran for 147 of his 164 yards.

Things looked good for Georgia State early. Brown got the Panthers on the board with 3:30 left in the first quarter when he scored on a 12-yard run, breaking the goal line with a diving stretch.

The Panthers took a 14-0 lead on their next possession, driving 90 yards in 10 plays. The touchdown came on 28-yard pass to Roger Carter, who made a defender miss at the 5 and spun around a tackler at the goal line.

Louisiana-Lafayette finally got something going after Brown threw too high for Sam Pinckney, and Mekhi Garner picked it off.

The Ragin' Cajuns converted a fourth-and-10 pass to freshman Devon Pauley, who outjumped Quavian White on the sideline for a first down. They scored two plays later when Lewis found Chris Smith for an 18-yard catch and run for a touchdown with 1:33 left in the half.

The Cajuns threated again after forcing Georgia State to go 3-and-out. They moved from their own 28 to the GSU 23, but White came up with an interception to end the drive, and the Panthers held a 14-7 lead at halftime.

Georgia State freshman Marcus Carroll scored on a 2-yard run in the third quarter to make it 21-7, but Louisiana-Lafayette answered with three consecutive scores, a 4-yard pass from Levi Lewis to Kyren Lacy, a 59-yard Elijah Mitchell run and a 2-yard run by Trey Ragas.

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