“It was pretty obvious that we got our butts kicked today by a pretty good football team,” Elliott said. “They get all the credit. They come in here undefeated, with the best doggone defense in the league. You thought we would have showed up for the party today, but we didn’t fight. We fought a little bit, but not for four quarters.”
And when it came time to pass around the blame, no one was spared.
“I can’t put my finger on it,” Elliott said. “It was poor execution by me, the head football coach, poor execution by our entire staff, poor execution by our players, poor execution by our entire football staff. We had an opportunity to go out there and defeat these guys, and I felt like we had the team to do it, but we did not have the team today.”
James Madison coach Curt Cignetti said, “I thought we played an outstanding second half, took it to them. I don’t think they could match our intensity in the second half. We made some sloppy plays in the first half, but to come down here and pull away with four touchdowns in the second half. …”
The stats bear it out. James Madison had 33 first downs to GSU’s 10. James Madison ran for 260 yards and GSU ran for 146. James Madison threw for 270 yards, compared with 185 for GSU. James Madison kept the ball for 42:26, with GSU having it for only 17:34.
“It makes no sense to me,” Elliott said. “They’re undefeated and tops in our league. You’ve got to have a doggone competitive nature that wants to drive you. And then you fight and fight. If they beat you, great, but it just felt like were just giving in.”
James Madison (9-0, 6-0 Sun Belt) got a career performance out of quarterback Jordan McCloud, who completed 28 of 36 passes for 307 yards and four touchdowns and ran 13 times for 104 yards and two touchdowns.
“They were running zone read, zone read, zone read,” Elliott said. “We didn’t practice it enough. We weren’t prepared. It’s a simple scheme. They didn’t have to do a whole lot.”
James Madison scored on its first possession on a 17-yard touchdown pass from McCloud to Taji Hudson but Georgia State answered by tying the score on a 30-yard keeper by quarterback Darren Grainger.
Georgia State’s Bryquice Brown intercepted a pass, but the turnover failed to produce points when Liam Rickman’s 33-yard field-goal attempt missed right. From that point the game belonged to James Madison.
“It was very surprising and very disappointing because we know who we are and what we believe,” senior guard Travis Glover said. “For us to not go out and rely on our training and our preparation that we put into this is very disappointing, especially when you have such a big opportunity, right at home. It’s very disappointing.”
Georgia State (6-3, 3-3) was led by quarterback Darren Grainger, who completed 10 of 19 passes for 82 yards and rushed 13 times for 103 yards and two touchdowns. James Madison limited Marcus Carroll, the leading rusher in the Sun Belt, to 33 yards on 13 carries.
The Panthers have lost two in a row and play their final home game Saturday against Appalachian State, a team it has never beaten, before finishing with road games at LSU and Old Dominion.
“I just feel like we’ve got to prepare better,” Glover said. “We’ve all got to come together and rely on how we prepared.”