Georgia State’s Darren Grainger goes for two consecutive over Coastal Carolina

Credit: Daniel Wilson/Georgia State Athletics

Credit: Daniel Wilson/Georgia State Athletics

Georgia State quarterback Darren Grainger grew up in Conway, S.C., not far from Coastal Carolina University. A year ago, he piloted the Panthers to a win over the Chanticleers, the program’s first against a ranked opponent. Now he’s back to try to engineer another much-needed win.

The teams will meet in their Sun Belt Conference opener at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Center Parc Stadium. The game will be shown on ESPN2 and can be heard locally on WRAS-FM 88.5.

ExploreGeorgia State tries to clean up mental mistakes before Thursday game with Coastal

Grainger has played at a high level all season. He has thrown for 640 yards and eight touchdowns and shown the ability to stretch the field with longer throws, an aspect of his game that was a focal point during the offseason. He also ranks second on the team with 172 rushing yards and has scored one touchdown.

“He’s good at a lot of things,” Coastal Carolina coach Jamey Chadwell said. “He can stretch you with the vertical game, and he’s just as good when he gets outside the pocket. They do a good job putting him in the right position, and they have good players around him. He is by far the most talented player we’ve seen to this point.”

Last week against Charlotte, Grainger passed for a career-high 343 yards and four touchdowns. He threw for 186 yards and three touchdowns with 75 rushing yards against North Carolina.

Since taking over as starter in the third game of the 2021 season, Grainger, a senior, has thrown for 27 touchdowns and run for four touchdowns in 14 starts.

“Darren has brought a sense of calmness to our football team,” Georgia State coach Shawn Elliott said. “He’s a guy who exudes a lot of confidence in his smile and just what he brings to our football team. It’s just relaxing when he walks in the room. He’s kind of like blood-pressure medication for all of us around here, which is fantastic to have.”

Elliott’s blood pressure no doubt went up a few degrees last week with the mistakes that cost them a win against Charlotte.

For the season, Georgia State has lost one fumble, which led to a touchdown, and thrown two interceptions. The Panthers also have had two punts and a field-goal attempt blocked. Those mistakes have the team at 0-3.

“You have to pinpoint certain things and move on very, very quickly, especially on a short week,” Elliott said. “I won’t say to get it out of our system because I don’t want that game to get out of our system. I need that game to linger in there. But you have to train your mind and your mentality to move on to the next opponent. But we have to do that quickly.”

Turnovers have been a problem for Coastal Carolina, too. The Chanticleers have lost five fumbles and thrown one interception, but still have found a way to start 3-0. The Chanticleers had four turnovers last week and still beat Buffalo 38-26.

“A lot of our adversity has been self-inflicted,” Chadwell said. “We have standards and expectations. There’s an expectation of winning. Georgia State is the best team we’ve played, and we have to find a way to start better. If we get behind them, we won’t be able to come back because they’re too good.”

Georgia State leads the series 3-2 and beat the No. 22-ranked Chanticleers 42-40 in November. The series skews differently than normal because the visiting team has won every time the two have played.

The game will mark the return of wide receiver Sam Pinckney, who played three seasons at Georgia State before transferring to Coastal Carolina in the spring. Pinckney has 15 catches for 259 yards and one touchdown.

“He’s been a big addition,” Chadwell said. “We knew what kind of player he would be, and he’s made some big catches. The way he prepares, the way he practices, he’s a good example. We needed someone older to show the way to some of our young players, and he’s done a good job with that.”

The loss of Pinckney – and the transfer of Cornelius McCoy to Eastern Kentucky – has been offset by the continued development of GSU receivers Jamari Thrash, Robert Lewis and Ja’Cyais Credle. Thrash has 19 receptions and set a school record with 213 receiving yards against Charlotte. Lewis has 11 catches and four touchdowns. Credle has shaken off an injury and has six catches.