Georgia State improves to 4-0 with win over Coastal Carolina

Marcus Carroll scores on a 7-yard run in the 30-17 win over Coastal Carolina in Conway, S.C. Carroll ran 29 times for 150 yards and one touchdown.

Credit: Georgia State Athletics

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Marcus Carroll scores on a 7-yard run in the 30-17 win over Coastal Carolina in Conway, S.C. Carroll ran 29 times for 150 yards and one touchdown.

Credit: Georgia State Athletics

Credit: Georgia State Athletics

CONWAY, S.C. – Georgia State’s defense had its best showing of the season and quarterback Darren Grainger showed off for his home folks one last time on Thursday as the Panthers beat Coastal Carolina 30-17 to improve to 4-0 for the first time in program history.

“They’ve done everything we’ve asked them and it was evident on the field tonight,” coach Shawn Elliott said. “We came out with great attitude, great effort. To be 4-0 for the first time in school history is really outstanding.”

The defense continued to show steady improvement under new coordinator Chad Staggs, who left that same position at Coastal Carolina to join the GSU staff in the off-season. The Panthers limited quarterback Grayson McCall, a three-time Sun Belt Player of the Year, to 26-for-42 passing for 295 yards and sacked him twice.

“I think the pressure on Grayson, the coverage by the secondary, it’s a combination of all involved,” Elliott said. “It’s got to be a complete defensive effort to hold a great player down like him and our defensive game plan was so important.”

The GSU defense allowed only 10 points; the other seven came in the fourth quarter when a snap was fumbled on a punt that Coastal recovered in the end zone for a touchdown.

“After this offseason I completely believe that we’re putting in too much work not to be here where we are,” said senior linebacker Jordan Veneziale, who had five tackles and made a crucial recovery of an onside kick. “I can’t wait for us to keep this thing rolling.”

The offense was led by Grainger, who was born and raised only a few miles from the Coastal Carolina campus. The senior completed 15 of 26 passes for 191 yards and one touchdown and ran 13 times for 47 yards and a touchdown.

Running back Marcus Carroll carried 29 times and gained 150 yards – his third time to surpass 100 yards this season – with one touchdown, a 7-yard score that gave Georgia State a 17-point lead early in the fourth quarter.

“It’s hard to tackle him for four quarters,” Elliott said. “You’ve got to stay with those 2- and 3-yard runs because they become 3- and 4-yard runs, then 5- and 6-yard runs and the next thing you know they’re 20- and 25-yard runs. He can carry the load and he can carry some defenders.”

The Panthers set the pace again this week by scoring on their first possession, this time a 14-play drive that covered 75 yards, with Grainger taking it in from the 8. The drive was the team’s first step to negating the enthusiasm of the large crowd that turned out for a “white-out” promotion. The game was also televised by ESPN.

“We knew it was a great crowd and we wanted to shut up the crowd as much as possible,” Grainger said. “(Scoring on the first drive) was something we’ve been wanting to do all year. You go and put up points first and put the pressure on them.”

Coastal’s Liam Gray kicked a 30-yard field goal to cut the lead to 7-3, only to have Georgia State answer with a 13-yard touchdown pass from Grainger to Robert Lewis. It was the 12th touchdown reception in the last 13 games for Lewis, his fifth of the season.

The Georgia State defense short-circuited a pair of Coastal drives with sacks. Justin Abraham’s sack forced the Chants to punt and a sack by Gavin Pringle, facilitated by pressure from Kevin Swint, forced Coastal to try a 51-yard field goal, which fell short.

With 57 seconds remaining in the first half and no timeouts left, Grainger used a pair of short sideline passes and a 30-yard run from Carroll to reach the 16. Lian Rickman entered to kick a 33-yard field goal at the horn, the second straight week he has ended the half with a field goal. This one gave Georgia State a 17-3 lead at halftime.

Rickman had a career-best three field goals, adding a 38-yard in the third quarter and a 33-yarder with 2:36 remaining to douse any hopes.

Georgia State (4-0, 1-0 Sun Belt) returns home on Sept. 30 to play Troy.

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