Georgia State improved to 5-1 overall – one victory short of becoming bowl eligible – and further distanced itself from the specter of last year’s 4-8 season. The Panthers are 2-1 in the Sun Belt and avenged last year’s 28-23 loss to Marshall.
“Our biggest thing this year is our mentality and how we respond to adversity,” Georgia State quarterback Darren Grainger said. “You said, ‘So what? Now what?’ and just responding to that and putting points on the board and whatever happens we have a response for it.”
Georgia State was able to keep its cool when Marshall cut the lead to 27-24 on a flukish score. The Thundering Herd scored when its two receivers tangled up with two GSU defenders on the sideline and Rasheen Ali ended up with a 65-yard touchdown reception.
“I would be lying if I said there wasn’t a little more urgency,” linebacker Kevin Swint said. “I don’t think we got rattled. I felt like we had to tighten down on some things and we needed to finish the game the right way.”
Marshall appeared to have gained the momentum after forcing GSU to go three-and-out, but the Herd was called for roughing punter Kade Loggins and retained possession. From that point the game belonged to Georgia State.
Grainger restored the 10-point lead by scoring on a 2-yard run at the end of a 75-yard drive and the Georgia State defense forced a punt after back-to-back sacks by Kevin Swint. The Panthers then ate 6:17 off the clock and iced the game on Marcus Carroll’s 2-yard run.
Grainger completed 21 of 31 passes for 234 yards and one touchdown, a 74-yarder to Tailique Williams, who had six catches for 129 yards. Grainger rushed for 62 yards and three touchdowns. Marcus Carroll carried 28 times for 159 yards and one touchdown, his 10th of the season.
The GSU defense gave up 301 yards passing to Marshall’s Cam Fancher, who completed 27 of 34. But the Panthers sacked him three times and had 10 tackles for loss. All-conference back Rasheen Ali ran 19 times for 103 yards and two touchdowns, but 53 of those yards came on one run and only 16 came in the second half.
“I was proud of our defense,” Elliott said. “We had a couple of penalties that let them keep drives going, but we overcame those.”
After Georgia State opened with a 24-yard Grainger touchdown run and Marshall countered with Ali’s 2-yard scoring run, the Panthers turned the momentum in their favor. Freshman Cam Marshall blocked a Marshall punt and freshman Izaiah Guy recovered and ran it four yards for a touchdown. It was Georgia State’s first blocked punt since 2013.
“The block was a great call by coach (Arketa) Banks,” Elliott said. “To go out and block that thing was incredible.”
GSU’s Liam Rickman kicked a 34-yard field goal to up the lead to 17-7 and added a 39-yarder after Marshall’s Rece Verhoff’s 21-yarder. Georgia State stretched the advantage to 27-10 when Williams caught a slant pass over the middle and turned it into a 77-yard touchdown. Marshall’s Ali scored on a 2-yard run with 23 seconds remaining to pull the Herd within 10 points at halftime.
Georgia State travels to play Louisiana on Saturday.