Georgia State’s record-setting linemen close careers against Marshall

Credit: Michael Wade

Credit: Michael Wade

Pat Bartlett will play in his 61st football game for Georgia State on Saturday afternoon. He will set a school record that most likely will never be broken. Since Shawn Elliott became head coach six years ago, he’s written Bartlett’s name on the depth chart at right guard, over and over, week after week.

“Pat’s an old soul. I call him ‘Mike Ditka,’” Elliott said. “He’s got that deep voice, and he’s a fun guy to be around. I was sitting there with him the other day and asked him, ‘Can you believe it’s your last week playing football here at Georgia State? What are you going to do next week?’ He said, ‘Probably drink a lot of beer.’”

Affirmative, Bartlett said. In fact, when Georgia State gets finished with its final game against Marshall, Bartlett is planning to drive home to Newtown, Pa., and watch the Philadelphia Eagles play the Green Bay Packers.

Bartlett grew up in Philly before his family moved to Newtown, about an hourlong drive to the north. That’s where former assistant Travis Trickett found him and enticed him to come to Georgia State.

“I’ve spent so much time here, and I’ve grown up a lot here,” Bartlett said. “Just countless memories, all the good and the bad. The good will always for me outweigh the bad and overshadow that. There’s so many good memories here.”

Bartlett was there when Georgia State scored the program’s signature win at Tennessee. And he remembers the following game, too, a shootout against Furman, whose quarterback Darren Grainger now is the starter at Georgia State.

Only once has Bartlett come close to missing a game. That was a year ago in the season opener against Army when he had plantar fasciitis and could barely walk. But he played through the pain, something he’s done time and time again.

“That 61 is definitely a testament to me staying healthy and is a testament to our training staff for getting me ready and keeping me healthy for games and to keep going every week.”

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

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

Center Malik Sumter also will play his final game. The Irmo, S.C., native came into the program at the same time as Bartlett – they were roommates that first season – and he has started 52 consecutive games and will play in his 58th game.

“Just to see the growth of the program,” Sumter said. “We’re leaving Georgia State a better place than it was when we got here.”

Bartlett and his teammates have a game remaining, Saturday at Marshall in Huntington, W.Va. Kickoff is at noon, and the game can be seen on ESPN-Plus and heard live on the GSU Athletics app or tape-delayed on WRAS-FM 88.5 at 7 p.m.

Georgia State (4-7, 3-4 Sun Belt) will see its streak of three bowl games end after back-to-back losses to Louisiana-Monroe and James Madison. The Panthers have never played Marshall (7-4, 4-3), one of four teams that joined the Sun Belt Conference this year.

Although the Panthers have been eliminated from postseason consideration, Elliott said the focus has not changed. He said the team is healthier than it has been in weeks and that the motivation is to win the game.

“We’re going to play the football game to win, so the best players are going to go out there and play,” Elliott said. “The guys who have led the way have the ability to go out there and give us the best chance to win, and they’re going to see it through.

“We’ve got the opportunity to end the season with some momentum and play a good Marshall squad. Like I’ve said, even though we’re sitting here at 4-7, I still feel like we’re one of the better teams in the league when we’re healthy.”

The game will feature two teams that have mastered the takeaway. Each has forced 25 turnovers, tied for third in FBS. Georgia State set a school record with 13 interceptions and 12 fumble recoveries. The Panthers had a school-record four fumble recoveries in Saturday’s loss to James Madison, with defensive end Javon Denis getting the second scoop-and-score of his career.

Over the past four games, the trio of Thomas Gore (five tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks), Denis (seven tackles for loss, three sacks) and Jeffery Clark (five tackles for loss, three sacks) have combined for 17 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks. Linebacker Shamar McCollum also had five tackles for loss and three sacks during that stretch.

Receiver Jamari Thrash has 51 receptions and six touchdowns and ranks second in the Sun Belt with 955 yards. He is trying to join Albert Wilson and Penny Hart to become the third player in program history to reach 1,000 yards.

Credit: Michael Wade

Credit: Michael Wade