No fourth-quarter magic as Georgia State loses late

Louisiana-Lafayette cornerback Eric Garror defends on a pass that was intended for Georgia State wide receiver Sam Pinckney (15) during the second half an NCAA college football game in Lafayette, La., Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)
Caption
Louisiana-Lafayette cornerback Eric Garror defends on a pass that was intended for Georgia State wide receiver Sam Pinckney (15) during the second half an NCAA college football game in Lafayette, La., Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)

Credit: AP

There were no last-second heroics in the bayou this week.

Unlike Saturday, when Georgia State scored a touchdown in the final minute to beat rival Georgia Southern, the Panthers rolled craps Thursday night when they tried to duplicate the feat against Louisiana-Lafayette.

The Panthers had the ball with 2:28 left to play, but wound up turning the ball over on downs at the Louisiana-Lafayette 49, leading to a 21-17 loss to the Ragin’ Cajuns in Lafayette, La.

Georgia State (4-5, 3-2 Sun Belt) began the final drive with a 12-yard run by Jamyest Williams, but an incompletion on a short pass on first down put the Panthers in a hole. After Williams was stopped at the line for no gain on second down, Grainger’s next two passes were well-defended and incomplete. That allowed Louisiana-Lafayette (8-1,6-0) to take possession, run out the clock and claim the Sun Belt’s Western Division title.

“Never thought any different,” Georgia State coach Shawn Elliott said. “Not a single time. I mean, plenty of time, right? There’s no reason to hurry, no reason to do anything different. Control the line and win the ballgame. It didn’t work out like it did last week. It’s disappointing.”

Caption
Louisiana-Lafayette coach Billy Napier, left, and Georgia State coach Shawn Elliott meet after Louisiana-Lafayette's 21-17 victory in an NCAA college football game in Lafayette, La., Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)

Credit: Matthew Hinton

Louisiana-Lafayette coach Billy Napier, left, and Georgia State coach Shawn Elliott meet after Louisiana-Lafayette's 21-17 victory in an NCAA college football game in Lafayette, La., Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)
Caption
Louisiana-Lafayette coach Billy Napier, left, and Georgia State coach Shawn Elliott meet after Louisiana-Lafayette's 21-17 victory in an NCAA college football game in Lafayette, La., Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)

Credit: Matthew Hinton

Credit: Matthew Hinton

Grainger was 8-for-19 passing for 98 yards and one touchdown and ran for 28 yards. Tucker Gregg ran 23 times for 99 yards and one touchdown and Williams carried 15 times for 82 yards. Roger Carter caught three passes for 76 yards and one touchdown.

The Georgia State defense was led by safeties Chris Moore and Antavious Lane, who each had 10 tackles.

Louisiana-Lafayette quarterback Levi Lewis completed 19 of 34 passes for 287 yards and one touchdown, with Pat Leblanc catching nine balls for 118 yards and one touchdown. Freshman Montrell Johnson rushed 17 times for 98 yards and two second-half touchdowns, including the game-winner.

The Panthers had their best defensive performance of the season in the first half. They limited Louisiana-Lafayette to 183 total yards and twice stopped the Ragin’ Cajuns on fourth downs in the red zone.

“Our defense played exceptional,” Elliott said. “In that first half they played lights out. They didn’t have answers for them. They were flying to the football, controlling the line of scrimmage, everything we coached them to do and everything they could do as players. I was very proud of that effort.”

The first came on the opening drive. Louisiana-Lafayette easily drove to the 14 before the Georgia State defense refused to yield. On fourth-and-4 at the 8, Lewis was chased by Javon Denis and fired an incompletion in the end zone.

The second stop came just before the end of the first half. Louisiana-Lafayette used a 51-yard pass from Lewis to Jalen Williams and got as far as the 6. But Lewis again was forced to run and sacked by Jacorey Crawford for a 7-yard loss.

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Georgia State quarterback Darren Grainger (3) throws to tight end Roger Carter (5) during the first half of the team's NCAA college football game against Louisiana-Lafayette in Lafayette, La., Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)

Credit: AP

Georgia State quarterback Darren Grainger (3) throws to tight end Roger Carter (5) during the first half of the team's NCAA college football game against Louisiana-Lafayette in Lafayette, La., Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)
Caption
Georgia State quarterback Darren Grainger (3) throws to tight end Roger Carter (5) during the first half of the team's NCAA college football game against Louisiana-Lafayette in Lafayette, La., Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Georgia State’s lone first-half points came on a 39-yard field goal by Noel Ruiz with 5:05 left in the first quarter. That completed a 12-play, 71-yard drive.

The Georgia State defense set up the Panthers’ first touchdown. Antavious Lane intercepted Lewis, the sixth of his career, and Grainger threw a 37-yard touchdown pass to Roger Carter, his second of the season, with 8:46 left in the third quarter.

That seem to invigorate Louisiana-Lafayette, which had a punt return called back to start the third quarter. The Ragin’ Cajuns drove 75 yards in 12 plays and scored on a 12-yard pass from Lewis to Pat Leblanc.

Louisiana-Lafayette then took advantage of a poor punt from Michael Hayes that traveled only 22 yards before going out of bounds at the 50. That allowed the Ragin’ Cajuns to take 14-10 lead, with Johnson scoring the go-ahead touchdown on a 3-yard run with 13:11 remaining.

Georgia State regained the lead with 5:25 left on a 16-play drive that was completed by Gregg’s 1-yard run, but the Panthers couldn’t slow the Cajuns. They moved quickly for the go-ahead touchdown on a 13-yard run by Johnson with 2:32 to play.

“We had every opportunity, we really did, we just couldn’t make those plays,” Elliott said. “We needed stops defensively, we needed to control the football offensively. We got in a situation there offensively where we took a couple of throws where we should have just done what we do best and hand the football off a little more. It’s easy to second-guess without seeing it right now. But what a tough loss for our football team.”

Georgia State’s schedule gets no easier with a trip to Coastal Carolina on Nov. 13. They finish with home games against Arkansas State and Troy.

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