Open date comes at a good time for weary Georgia State coach, players

Georgia State head coach Shawn Elliott, center, reacts to a call by an official during their game against Rhode Island at Center Parc Stadium, Thursday, August 31, 2023, in Atlanta. Georgia State won 42-35 against Rhode Island. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Georgia State head coach Shawn Elliott, center, reacts to a call by an official during their game against Rhode Island at Center Parc Stadium, Thursday, August 31, 2023, in Atlanta. Georgia State won 42-35 against Rhode Island. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

No one is typically more eager for gameday than Georgia State coach Shawn Elliott. But even the high-energy Elliott is grateful to have this weekend off in order to rest and recharge before the final six games of the regular season.

The Panthers have been going hard since January, focused on reshaping the mentality and physical dexterity of the team. The result is a 4-1 start, the best in program history, although they’re going into the break after a 28-7 loss to defending Sun Belt champion Troy.

“It’s a good time for us to have an open date,” Elliott said. “We’ve had some bumps and bruises out there and we’re missing some guys from some injuries so we need a little bit of time to recover.”

Quarterback Darren Grainger took a hard shot to his throwing arm against Troy and will have additional time to get treatment and recover. Grainger had the ball knocked free while he was throwing and was attended to on the field by the training staff. Grainger spent the next few minutes walking the sideline, stretching and flexing his arm, but he did not miss any time and is expected to be at full strength next week.

Georgia State was without wideout Ja’Cyais Credle, one of its top possession receivers, and Bryquice Brown, a preseason all-conference cornerback, against Troy. Defensive lineman Tylon Dunlap has been out for two weeks and tight end Kris Byrd suffered a season-ending injury against Charlotte.

“We definitely need some rest after this five-game stretch,” said senior cornerback Gavin Pringle. “We want to take time to rest and get healthy and come back strong.”

Several new faces have gotten a chance to play and have produced, among them defensive end Anthony Blume, cornerback Izaiah Guy, receiver Peter Kikwata and tight end Avion McBride. Blume, who had a sack against Coastal Carolina, transferred from Norfolk State along with guard Lamar Robinson, who encouraged Elliott to pursue his teammate in the transfer portal.

“It’s a next-man-up mentality,” Pringle said. “When somebody goes down, you’ve got to be ready when your number is called. We all believe in each other.”

Despite last week’s loss, Elliott remained optimistic about the rest of the season, which includes four road games, among them a trip to LSU. Georgia State’s six remaining Sun Belt opponents have a combined 21-8 record.

“We don’t want anyone to drag their head,” Elliott said. “Yes, winning and losing is the game of the game and the loss does leave a disappointing feeling, but I’m very confident in our players, I’m very confident in our leaders, I’m very confident in our coaches and I think we’re going to be a force to be reckoned with.”

Georgia State plays again at home on Oct. 14 against Marshall. The 7 p.m. game will be shown nationally on ESPN2.

When games resume, Grainger and running back Marcus Carroll will be trying to continue their move up the program’s record books.

Grainger has thrown for 5,345 yards (third all-time) and rushed for 1,682 yards (third-all-time), with his 7,027 total offense -- only 539 yards shy of catching all-time leader Nick Arbuckle. Grainger isn’t likely to catch Arbuckle’s passing total of 7,651 yards, but he needs seven touchdowns to tie Arbuckle’s total of 51.

Carroll has rushed for 583 yards, sixth-best in the country, and his nine rushing touchdowns is tied for the most in the FBS level. Carroll has three 100-yard games this season and ran for 75 in the loss to Troy. He has 1,370 career rushing yards, 42 yards short of catching Donald Russell for No. 7.

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