What happens when the “Worldwide Leader in Sports” tells you to play on a Wednesday? All you can ask is what time, which is exactly what Georgia State did when it was assigned to play Appalachian State on the nontraditional football date.
“This is the first time I’ve ever played on Wednesday night since I was in middle school,” Georgia State coach Shawn Elliott said. “So that’s a little bit unusual for me, as well. But once game day gets here, everything kind of flows into place.”
Georgia State (2-4, 1-1 Sun Belt Conference) will try to extend its two-game win streak against Appalachian State (3-3, 1-2) on Wednesday. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m., and the game will be shown on ESPN2 and can be heard locally on WRAS-FM 88.5.
The unusual circumstances won’t help. Appalachian State, where Elliott played and worked 13 years as an assistant, has been the standard-bearer of the Sun Belt for years. Georgia State is 0-8 against the Mountaineers, and most games haven’t been close. The exception came in 2020 in Boone, N.C., when App State eked out a 17-13 win on a late fourth-quarter touchdown. The Mountaineers came back to beat the Panthers 45-16 in 2021.
But the Panthers have the sort of veteran team that is more likely to be able to adapt to the disruptive schedule, which required them to practice over the weekend and have their walk-through Tuesday.
“The practicing on Saturday and Sunday is a bit different,” Elliott said. “The veterans have done a good job keeping our head on straight and moving forward. I thought we had some really good practices.”
The Panthers’ win streak coincides with the resumption of their running attack. They ran for 299 yards against Army and 336 against Georgia Southern and won both those games. It was quite a rebound from the 78 yards they mustered in the loss to Coastal Carolina the week before playing Army.
A huge factor was the changes made to solidify an offensive line that was without its top three tackles against Coastal Carolina because of various injuries. GSU moved Travis Glover from left guard to right tackle and inserted Luis Cristobal at left guard. Bryson Broadway returned at left tackle to join veteran right guard Pat Bartlett and all-conference center Malik Sumter.
“Everybody knows that consistency is really key in the running game,” Elliott said. “They’ve got to be extremely on point this week against an Appalachian State defense. I know Dale Jones (defensive coordinator) very, very well, and he’s going to have those guys ready to stop the run.”
Georgia State leads the Sun Belt and ranks 13th in the nation with 234.5 yards rushing per game. Tucker Gregg and Jamyest Williams have both surpassed 100 yards in the past two games.
Gregg has rushed for 460 yards and needs 136 yards to catch Tra Barnett (2016-19) at No. 1 on the school’s career rushing list. Gregg, a fifth-year senior from Chatsworth, has 2,020 yards on a school-record 411 carries.
Williams, also a fifth-year senior, has run for 403 yards and still has a chance to become the third Panther to reach the 2,000-yard career mark. Williams has 1,515 yards in only 243 carries.
The Georgia State defense will be tested by App State quarterback Chase Brice, a Grayson High School product who has thrown for 1,674 yards and 18 touchdowns. He has thrown a touchdown in each game and had six against North Carolina. Brice threw for 326 yards and three touchdowns last season against Georgia State.
Georgia State has intercepted 10 passes – four by career leader Quavian White – but has not yet generated the sort of pass rush that helped the team set school records for sacks in each of the past two seasons. GSU has only seven sacks, which ranks last in the conference.
“We need some better pass rush,” Elliott said. “There’s a couple ways to create those – better coverage in the secondary and ultimately bringing pressure or getting there with a four-man rush. But I’m not too worried about that. Our turnover numbers are mounting, and I would take a turnover over a sack any day.”