Georgia State tries to clean up mental mistakes before Thursday game with Coastal

With a limited window to get ready for Thursday night’s nationally televised game against Coastal Carolina, the Georgia State football team is going to focus as much on mental preparation as physical preparation for the Sun Belt Conference opener.

The Panthers dropped a last-minute 42-41 decision to Charlotte on Saturday night and fell to 0-3. The difference, coach Shawn Elliott said, was mental mistakes that occurred at the wrong times. Similar miscues against a good Coastal Carolina team would be even more disastrous.

Thursday’s game starts at 7:30 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPN. It can be heard locally on WRAS-FM 88.5.

“You’ve got to find time to regroup during the week,” Elliott said. “We’re not going to beat these guys up or tire them out in practice. Most of our mistakes were mental mistakes, so the education in the classroom, the meeting room, is certainly going to be huge for us. If we can just eliminate those things right there, we could be a much different football team.”

The two most glaring mistakes were a missed blocking assignment that enabled Charlotte to get a game-changing strip sack that went for a scoop-and-score, and a missed extra point that had the Panthers chasing the lead for the final 2 ½ quarters.

“The extra point, I mean, it’s nothing mechanical,” Elliott said. “Just go out there and see the snap, see the hold and deliver that kick. The mentality wasn’t there to go out and execute it. For whatever reason, it didn’t happen. The strip sack had nothing to do with getting overpowered. He just didn’t do the right thing, and it led to an unblocked defender coming from the blindside. Those are the things we’ve got to clean up.

“Go all the way back to the opening game against South Carolina and our first punt block. The guy steps left and he should have been blocking right, and you give up a touchdown. You know, we’re giving points away. If I’m lining up to play Georgia State, I’m like, ‘Hey, can we play them next? They’re giving a lot of points away.’”

The Panthers are also beat up physically from the Charlotte game. Linebacker Blake Carroll was on crutches at the end of the game and is likely out for the year. He is replaced in the starting lineup by redshirt sophomore Justin Abraham.

Other players who left the game with injuries were safeties Antavious Lane and Jacorey Crawford, and cornerback Quavian White. Starting right tackle Montavious Cunningham was already out. All were listed on this week’s depth chart.

Elliott said, “Imagine two trains colliding and everybody’s sitting up front, and we’re all driving the train and it was a head-on collision. We’ve played three tough football games, so you’re going to have bumps and bruises, but you’ve got to be prepared to play the next guy, and you’d better have a really good athletic trainer to get these guys back on the field as fast as you can.”

Last year’s Coastal Carolina game was a signature win for the Panthers. It was the program’s first win over a Top 25 opponent and enabled them to claim second place in the Sun Belt’s East Division. Coastal is 3-0 with wins against Army and Buffalo, and the Chanticleers have never lost in Atlanta.

Coastal is led by quarterback Grayson McCall, who missed last year’s game with GSU because of an injury. He threw for 254 yards and four touchdowns against the Panthers in 2020. The Chanticleers also feature wide receiver Sam Pinckney, who transferred from Georgia State. He has 15 catches, 17.3 yards per reception, and one touchdown.

Georgia State got a boost from the return of wideout Ja’Cyais Credle, who caught six passes for 59 yards, and joins with Jamari Thrash and Robert Lewis to give the team three mid-to-long-range threats. Thrash caught 10 passes and set a school record with 213 yards last week.