Coming off its bye week, Georgia State hopes to utilize a better run game in its last six games of the season.
The Panthers finished the first half of the season 2-4 overall and 1-1 in the Sun Belt. After falling to Troy, Georgia State used its open week to prepare both mentally and physically for the second half of the season, when the team faces six consecutive conference opponents.
“I think we got lucky with the bye week,” quarterback Dan Ellington said. “There were some teams who played four games and got their bye week. We played half of the season, then got the bye week to see where we are at.”
The Panthers struggled to move the ball on the ground against the Trojans, running for only 116 yards in 35 attempts. At practice, the offense tightened up the running game while also focusing on fundamentals and keeping Ellington comfortable in the pocket.
“I thought we did a good job during the bye week of really focusing on us, fundamentals, and on our assignments.,” Ellington said. “I think that bye week was huge for us to learn how coaches want it done.”
Against Arkansas State’s defense, the Panthers running game along with Ellington’s comfort in the pocket may be on display early. Arkansas State allowed 799 yards in its two conference games, falling short to Georgia Southern and Appalachian State. In comparison, the Panthers gathered 875 total yards in its two conference games.
However, Arkansas State quarterback Justice Hansen threw for 1,538 yards in his first six games while also collecting 219 yards on the ground. The Red Wolves passing attack and Hansen’s mobility present a challenge for Georgia State’s front and young secondary.
“I feel like just being able to stop the run game, we’ll be able to make it one-dimensional,” linebacker Chase Middleton said. “By doing that and everyone doing their job, we’ll be alright.”
Arkansas State’s defense presents different challenges for Georgia State’s offense, which struggles to convert on third down. In its last conference game, the Panthers converted only 3 of 13 on third down.
“If you look at them on tape against Alabama, Alabama had just a little bit of trouble with them (Arkansas State),” Ellington said. “I know they stuffed Alabama on third down and one, that’s saying something if you can stuff Alabama on third and one.”
The Panthers rank fourth in the East Division of the Sun Belt Conference, while Arkansas State ranks fourth in the West. Georgia State’s journey through the second half of its season starts Thursday against the Red Wolves.
“Hopefully the lat six games I am an A plus,” Ellington said. “If I am at an A plus, we’re doing pretty good as a team.”