Georgia State won its first season-opener since 2019 and it came by the narrowest of margins – one length of the chain.

The Panthers had a 42-35 lead and opted to go for it on fourth-and-1 at their own 38 at Center Parc Stadium. Marcus Carroll dove for the first down with 1:35 remaining and the officials rushed in to mark the ball. Seconds later the chain crew was called to measure and see if GSU had succeeded or if Rhode Island would get one last possession to tie or win the game.

The crew stretched the chain and the official signaled for a first down. But Rhode Island coach Jim Fleming wanted a mulligan, so the chains were stretched out for a second time. The result was the same and Georgia State was able to run out the remaining 95 seconds and secure the win.

“Football is a game of inches,” Georgia State coach Shawn Elliott said. “When they marked him down, he had the first down. I was standing right there on the line when he fell over. It baffled me that they’d give you the first down, then say, ‘No, no, no, no, no. We’re going to go back and do it again because the chain wasn’t pulled tight enough.’ I don’t know what was going on, but it took a long time to figure it out and I’m glad they figured it out where we got the first down. The officials did a marvelous job.”



Although there were plenty of areas that need to be cleaned up before their next game with UConn, the Panthers showed the sort of grit that last year’s 4-8 team was lacking. It was evident early when GSU blew a 21-7 lead and trailed 28-21 late in the third quarter.

“I would just tell the guys that even though we were down by a touchdown, we were able to keep our composure,” said Georgia State running back Marcus Carroll, who carried 23 times for a career-high 184 yards (fourth-best in school history) and three touchdowns.

“But you look back on last year and we’d be down and sometimes we’d have some negativity on the sidelines. To see everybody just keep fighting, the next-play mentality, what we’ve been working on in the off-season … to come out and find a way to win, that was great.”



Elliott agreed, saying, “We didn’t flinch, where a year ago that would have been a case where we could have probably flinched a bit.”

Georgia State quarterback Darren Grainger was a complement to Carroll’s running. Grainger completed 16 of 20 passes -- 14 straight at one time in the first half -- for 193 yards and two touchdowns and ran 12 times for 53 yards. Robert Lewis caught seven passes for 97 yards and one touchdown, a 39-yarder, and Tailique Williams caught a 42-yard touchdown.

The Georgia State defense had trouble dealing with Rhode Island quarterback Kasim Hill, who completed 24 of 40 passes for 408 yards and four touchdowns. But Hill threw two interceptions that were instrumental in the Panthers’ ability to win the game.

The first pick came late in the first half. Hill threw a fade route in the left corner of the end zone, but Cody Jones, a transfer from UMass, was able to wrestle the ball away from the receiver for the interception.



The second interception was even more meaningful. Gavin Pringle, a senior transfer from Bucknell, read Hill’s mind and jumped in front of his throw to the sideline. Pringle grabbed it and raced 21 yards for the pick-six, the first for GSU since the 2021 season.

“When I touched it, I couldn’t believe I had the ball in my hands,” Pringle said. “Once I touched it, I’ve got to score, so we’re going through to the end zone.”

Although the game wasn’t perfect, Elliott saw plenty of reasons to be optimistic after focusing the last eight months on producing a tougher football team.

“We gave up some big plays defensively. I mean some boneheaded plays in the secondary, which is something we have to fix,” Elliott said. “But I really love the way our guys looked and stood right in the face of adversity and said, ‘You know what? Not tonight. Not this year. We’re going to finish this thing out.’ And we did.”