It’s been a while since an opponent put the clamps on Georgia State’s offense like Coastal Carolina did on Thursday night at Center Parc Stadium. The Panthers, who had rushed for 200-plus yards in six straight games, were limited to 78 yards rushing in their Sun Belt Conference opener.

The defense didn’t fare well either, surrendering 540 total yards, 272 of it on the ground. Coastal Carolina had 28 first downs and owned the time of possession, 40:04 to 19:56.

The result was a 41-24 loss to Coastal Carolina 41-24, which dropped Georgia State to 0-4 for the first time since 2016.

“We had some guys out (because of injuries) and there were some errors by the guys in there playing,” coach Shawn Elliott said. “That’s no excuse. They were prepared to go out there and play and just didn’t. we’ll have to go back and find out exactly what occurred.”

The Panthers got behind 14-0 barely three minutes into the game and were forced to play from behind all night. GSU was without three of its starting offensive tackles and had other new faces on a defense that was physically beat up from last week’s game.

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

It was the fewest rushing produced by Georgia State since it managed only 48 yards against Army in the 2021 season opener. The Panthers play at Army next week.

Marcus Carroll led Georgia State with eight carries for 39 yards, including a 12-yard that was the Panthers’ longest of the night. Tucker Gregg ran 11 times for 22 yards and one touchdown.

Quarterback Darren Grainger faced steady pressure, was sacked twice, and completed 14 of 25 passes for 231 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Ja’Cyais Credle had five receptions for 76 yards and Robert Lewis had two catches for 82 yards and one touchdown.

“We had 600 yards last week, so it felt like it was a downgrade this week,” Grainger said.

Coastal was led by quarterback Grayson McCall, who completed 19 of 27 passes for 268 yards and two touchdowns. He had a sack-free evening and even ran for 38 yards and a score. C.J. Beasley ran 25 times for 142 yards. Former GSU receiver Sam Pinckney caught seven balls for 77 yards.

Coastal Carolina scored on its first offensive play, a 50-yard pass from McCall to Parkview High graduate Jared Brown. The Chanticleers took four plays to score after forcing Georgia State to go three-and-out, with Brown burning them again for a 53-yard catch-and-run. Brown finished with five catches for 129 yards.

“I can see every situation and knew the formation that a wheel route was coming,” Elliott said. “It doesn’t do us any good if I know it and our coaches know it and our players don’t know it. For whatever reason it did not transition from our coaches to our players and that is poor. That is poor on our part. It’s can’t happen.

“You can’t play with a guy who can’t take it from the meeting room to the playing field and we’ve got to coach better. I mean, there’s no other way. It’s got to be driven home to these guys because we’ve got a lot of guys out there playing their hearts out and laying everything on the line for our football team.”

The Panthers got on the scoreboard with an 87-yard drive capped by Gregg’s 1-yard run. It was the 19th of his career and tied him with Tra Barnett for the school’s all-time lead.

Coastal added another touchdown on McCall’s 2-yard run and led 24-7 after adding a 24-yard field goal from Kade Hensley.

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

GSU kept it close when Michael Hayes kicked a 36-yard field goal, which was offset by Hensley’s 44-yarder. The Panthers closed with a speedy scoring drive, Grainger connecting with Robert Lewis for a 29-yard touchdown with 44 seconds left. It was the fifth straight game in which Lewis has caught a touchdown pass.

Coastal may have nailed down the outcome in the third quarter. Georgia State took the opening kick and was moving the ball when Charles Arnold Jr., who played at Hughes High School in Fairburn, intercepted a pass at the 16. The Chanticleers then methodically took 16 plays, using 9:07 off the clock, to score on a 2-yard dive by Johns Creek product Nate Hope II and up the lead to 34-17.

“We end up turning the ball over and they take it down and score and it’s a 14-point swing,” Elliott said. “It was just an uphill climb from there.”

GSU got a break when McCall twisted his ankle while escaping Jeffrey Clark’s rush and had to leave the game. That led to a missed field goal by Coastal, which gave a bit of hope to the Panthers. That was extinguished when Gregg lost a rare fumble with 11:31 remaining.

Georgia State scored with 7:26 left when Jontrey Hunter intercepted a pass from backup quarterback Jarrett Guest and returned for a school-record 80-yard touchdown.

“It’s a disappointment,” Elliott said. “We’re going to have to grow, we’re going to have to learn, we’re going to have to make some changes. We’ll evaluate … can’t sit here and tell you the changes we’re going to make, but something’s got to be different moving forward.”