Georgia State winless after suffering last-minute loss to Charlotte

Losing to a Power Five opponent, like Georgia State did the first two weeks, is one thing. Losing to a winless team from a lesser conference at home is a different matter. And it left coach Shawn Elliott mad, sad and sick to his stomach.

The Panthers lost 42-41 to Charlotte on Saturday at Center Parc Stadium by allowing the 49ers to drive 69 yards in the final 93 seconds to win the game. It dropped Georgia State to 0-3 and facing the prospect of a quick turnaround with Coastal Carolina coming to town on Thursday night.

“We’re going to move forward,” Elliott said. “I told those guys we sat around here thinking we were a pretty decent football team and we’re playing like we’re the No. 1 team in the country – and we’re nowhere close. We didn’t execute at all. It’s a very, very pitiful feeling.”

Georgia State had played from behind since missing an extra point on the third touchdown in the second quarter until finally taking the lead in the fourth quarter. The Panthers’ defense got a stop with 4:21 left and they scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 32-yard pass from Darren Grainger to Jamari Thrash with 1:39 left. Grainger ran for two points and Georgia State led 41-35.

But Thrash was flagged for taunting when he pointed at the defeated defender in the end zone. That allowed Charlotte to shorten the field on its final possession.

Thrash otherwise had a great day. He caught 10 passes for a school-record 213 yards and one touchdown. Grainger came up big, too; he completed 22 of 34 passes for 343 yards and four touchdowns and ran for 48 yards. Tucker Gregg ran 23 times for 100 yards and Marcus Carroll rushed 15 times for 94 yards.

Meanwhile Georgia State’s defense kept losing its impact players. All-conference linebacker Blake Carroll suffered a serious lower body injury, was carted to the locker room and came back to the sidelines on crutches. By the end of the game the Panthers were without cornerback Quay White, safety Antavious Lane and safety Jacorey Crawford.

That made it easier for veteran Charlotte quarterback Chris Reynolds to keep the offense rolling. Reynolds, who was injured in the season opener and missed two games, came back to complete 31 of 43 passes for 401 yards and five touchdowns. He was under steady pressure most of the game, but was sacked just one time.

Georgia State helped the Charlotte cause with silly penalties – twice drawing a flag for not having the line set before a play – and with a lack of control.

“We haven’t been a huge-penalized team in the past but some of our penalties are just foolish,” Elliott said. “And right there at the end of the game you go down, you take the lead and we get an unsportsmanlike conduct. Are we playing smart football? No we are not playing smart football.

“And then they take it right down our throat and score and beat us by one point. It’s showing up in the games and we’ve got to clean that crap up. I’ve got to clean that crap up.”

Charlotte led 21-20 after a high-octane first half that saw the teams combine for 532 yards, 309 of them by the Panthers.

Georgia State drove 75 yards in 11 plays after the opening kickoff and scored when Grainger connected with Kris Byrd for a 9-yard touchdown.

Charlotte answered by going 75 yards, with Grant Dubose catching a 7-yard touchdown pass from Reynolds.

Georgia State took a 14-7 lead when Granger threw a 34-yard touchdown pass to Robert Lewis, his fifth touchdown reception over his last four games.

The Panthers had the momentum after Thomas Gore made a big stop on fourth down to halt the 49ers at the 2. But Charlotte came up with the big play when Granger was blind-sided by Prince Bemah and fumbled, with Markee Watts recovering and running 52 yards for the tying score.

“It’s one thing to get beat, it’s another thing to not do your assignment correctly and give up a strip sack for a touchdown,” Elliott said. “When a guy whips another guy, I can take it, but when you don’t do what you’re supposed to do and something like that happens, that gets me.”

After an exchange of turnovers – Granger was sacked and intercepted by B.J. Turner and Reynolds was intercepted by Quavian White, his third of the year and career-best 10th of his career – Charlotte went ahead 21-14 when Reynolds completed a 2-yard touchdown pass to Victor Tucker.

Georgia State appeared to have the game tied. Grainger threw a 73-yard pass to Thrash and scored on Gregg’s 2-yard run. But Michael Hayes was wide right on the extra point, leaving Charlotte with a 21-20 halftime lead.

The two teams swapped touchdowns in the second half. Charlotte scored on a 7-yard throw from Reynolds to Elijah Spencer, only to have Georgia State answer on a 6-yard touchdown pass to Kris Byrd, his third touchdown in two weeks. Charlotte got a 31-yard pass from Reynolds to Henry Rutledge, but Georgia State answered with a 2-yard Gregg touchdown.