Georgia State hopes to turn season with win at Army

WEST POINT, N.Y. -- The Georgia State football team has been looking for something to turn their season around. They may have found it on the six-inch line at famed Michie Stadium on Saturday.

The Panthers, on the verge of blowing a 17-point lead, stopped Army on fourth-and-1 and went on to a 31-14 victory and secure their first victory of the season.

“That may just be the click that we needed because it was marvelous,” Georgia State coach Shawn Elliott said.

Georgia State (1-4) led 17-0 at halftime, but Army (1-3) scored on its first two possessions of the second half and were on the verge of surrendering the lead. The mighty Army running attack, an option-based scheme that requires mastery of angles and blocking, took over at the Georgia State 49 after recovering Jamyest Williams’ fumble.

The Black Knights had first-and-goal at the 6-yard line and inched it toward the end zone on the first two plays. But quarterback Cade Ballard was halted at the 1 by Justin Abraham on third down, leaving the ball inside the 1 for fourth down. Army handed it to big B-back Jacobi Buchanan, but he was swallowed up by the interior of GSU’s defensive line, with Shamar McCollum and Chris Davis closing it out.

“They made the plays when it was needed,” Elliott said. “They had driven that ball down with that power run game, and at some point we weren’t getting pushed around. At some point you’ve got to make a stand.”

Linebacker Jordan Veneziale said, “In the huddle we just knew we had to bow our necks and give it our all. It went our way that time, and I couldn’t be more proud of the guys up front.”

The win still wasn’t secure. Georgia State had to punt and again prepared for an Army punt, but it was a fake that came up five yards short of the first down. The Panthers then put it away when Darren Grainger threw deep to Ja’Cyias Credle for a 57-yard touchdown with 2:59 remaining.

“That call was, ‘Win the game,’” Elliott said. “We had a shot there, and we took it. You’ve got to play the game with some guts, and you’ve got to have the mentality to take the shot, and we took it today.”

GSU tacked on a bonus score after Bryquice Brown intercepted a pass and Tucker Gregg broke a 56-yard run up the middle with 55 seconds left. It was the record 20th touchdown of his career.

Grainger completed 8 of 12 passes for 157 yards and one touchdown and ran eight times for 46 yards and one touchdown. Gregg carried 16 times for 124 yards and one touchdown, and Williams ran 12 times for 106 yards and one touchdown. Jamari Thrash was the top receiver, with four catches for 47 yards, and Credle caught two passes for 57 yards and one touchdown.

The defense was led by Veneziale, who had 13 tackles, recovered two fumbles and broke up two passes. Jordan Jones, getting his first start at the other inside spot, had 12 tackles, 10 of them solo stops.

“I love winning,” Elliott said. “That’s what I’m in the business to do. That’s what we’re all in the business to do. There were probably three or four monkeys on my back, to tell the truth. But those guys in that locker room, they lifted them and took them right off. Now we’ve got to go back to work and win on Monday to be successful.”

Georgia State plays again at 2 p.m. Saturday against rival Georgia Southern at Center Parc Stadium.

Georgia State took the first-half kickoff and moved the ball at will until a penalty, sack and bad snap forced the Panthers to settle for a 46-yard field goal from Michael Hayes, a career-best effort.

The Panthers came up with a takeaway when Veneziale recovered a fumble. But the Panthers failed to convert on fourth-and-1 at the 5 when Gregg was stacked up for no gain with 0:28 left in the quarter.

But GSU cashed in on Army’s next mistake, a shanked 21-yard punt that set the Panthers up at the 38. On the fourth play Georgia State lined up in an empty backfield with four receivers bunched right, only to have Grainger keep it for a 13-yard touchdown and a 10-0 lead.

Army switched quarterbacks, turning to Ballard, who led the team to the GSU 36, but he was forced to scramble on fourth-and-8 under pressure from linemen Tyler Gore and Jeffery Clark and came up with no gain.

Georgia State took advantage again. Grainger found Kris Byrd for a 17-yard completion on third down to keep the drive alive and Williams shook a would-be ankle tackle on third down before breaking a 33-yard touchdown run to stretch the lead to 17-0.

The Panthers then came up with another turnover when Veneziale recovered a fumbled pitch at 22. Georgia State ran out the final 50 seconds of the half.