Georgia State offensive line awaits next test against Connecticut



Graduations and other departures left Georgia State with a new-look offensive line. With four new starters up front, there was uncertainty about whether the line could live up to the high standards set in previous seasons.

That uneasiness didn’t last long. After one game, the results look quite favorable. In the aftermath of the opening-game win over Rhode Island, it appears the Panthers may be just as good – and deeper – on the offensive line than in the past.

“I thought the offensive line played pretty well,” said Georgia State coach Shawn Elliott, himself a former offensive line coach with high standards. “They were really solid.”

The line paved the way for the offense to score 35 points, accumulate 424 yards in total offense and run for 231 yards, with Marcus Carroll rushing for a career-high 184 yards. The line did not surrender a sack and incurred only one false-start penalty.

“I don’t think there were any missed assignments for those guys, which is huge,” Elliott said. “We had seven guys go in and play, and I thought they played really well.”

The line is anchored by all-Sun Belt left tackle Travis Glover, the only returning starter. Right guard Jonathan Brown, right tackle Montavious Cunningham and center Avery Reece all have experience, and sophomore Trevor Timmons earned his first start at right guard. Transfers Tyden Ferris and Lamar Robinson both rotated in to give the unit more depth.

Glover said, “We’ve got more of a fighter’s mentality, more of an attacking, we’re-going-to-get-it mindset. Just a totally different vibe within the team from last year. I feel like this year when we’re faced with adversity, we won’t even think about folding. We know what the mission is.”

The line needs to repeat the performance this week when the Panthers host Connecticut at 7 p.m. Saturday at Center Parc Stadium. (TV: ESPN-Plus, Radio: WRAS-FM 88.5) The Huskies lost 24-14 to N.C. State in their opener Saturday.

Georgia State has had a week to work on tightening a defense that allowed 520 yards – 408 of them in the air – and allowed Rhode Island to convert 13 of 20 third-down attempts.

“We found some things that we need to make adjustments on heading into our second game, but all-in-all I was very pleased,” Elliott said. “I think our football program took a step forward last week. Defensively we’ve got to get a handle on third downs a lot better, kind of get our coverage situation straightened out.”

The defense was bailed out by a pair of exceptional interceptions. Cody Jones made an athletic play to take the ball away from a Rhode Island receiver in the end zone, and Gavin Pringle came up with a pick-six that put the Panthers in front to stay.

Georgia State’s special teams, which featured all new specialists, shined in their debut. Kicker Liam Rickman was 6-for-6 on extra points, and punter Kade Loggins, who also was the holder, averaged 47.2 yards on five punts.

The only blemish came in the third quarter when Chance Singleton was flagged for roughing the kicker on a punt that appeared to be blocked. But replays showed Singleton arrived so quickly that he hit the punter in the belly before the ball was launched.

UConn is coached by Jim Mora, who was the head coach of the Falcons from 2004-06. Mora, 61, had been out of coaching since 2017 when he was fired at UCLA. He returned last season and led the Huskies to a 6-6 season and a bowl victory.

Mora said this week that the Huskies are concerned with the mobility of GSU quarterback Darren Grainger, who completed his first 14 passes against Rhode Island, wound up 16-for-20 passing for 193 yards and two touchdowns. The Huskies had trouble with NC State’s dual-threat quarterback Brennan Armstrong last week, allowing him to throw for 155 yards and run for 96 yards.

“(Grainger) is a quarterback that can run, and as we all know, we had some problems with that last week, especially when the quarterback scrambles,” Mora said. “So that’s something we’ve been focused on and we continue to focus on.”

Mora was critical of the way his team tackled and deflected the blame toward himself for the lack of preparation. “But ultimately when you get out on the field, great defenses tackle. They swarm and they tackle, and we missed way too many tackles.”

The game will be a homecoming for UConn starting defensive back Durante Jones, a junior who played at Mays High School. He is one of three Georgians on the roster. Jones unquestionably is the team’s defensive leader – he had 155 tackles in 22 games over the past two seasons – and was labeled a “maniacal competitor” by Mora.