A few thoughts after Georgia State’s 30-27 loss at South Alabama on Saturday:
1. Where’s the flag? Just as in the loss to Louisiana-Lafayette, the Sun Belt officials did Georgia State no favors. Running through a few questionable calls that went against the Panthers:
- The spot on Jonathan Lytle’s attempted dive into the end zone looked very short. I thought he had scored. The officials did not. Nick Arbuckle was stopped very short on fourth and goal the next play.
- It appeared that South Alabama fumbled the ball late in the fourth quarter and that Georgia State recovered. The ESPN announcers were emphatic that there was a fumble. After a review, the officials ruled there was no fumble.
- Lastly, after South Alabama took a 30-27 lead, on the ensuing kickoff a South Alabama player decked Keith Rucker with a right cross. The attack appeared unprovoked. The officials called offsetting penalties, robbing the Panthers of a chance to start inside South Alabama territory.
2. Defensive improvement? It is either a reflection of how poorly the defense has played before Saturday that giving up 447 yards, including 321 rushing, could be considered an improvement. Georgia State had two sacks (one by Trey Payne and one by Robert Dowling) and seemed to blitz more frequently than in past games. The trade-off for blitzing was when they didn’t get to Brandon Bridge he was able to break containment and get down the field. He finished with 137 rushing yards. The Panthers also forced five punts. Before Saturday, the Panthers had eight sacks and had forced 22 punts.
3. The trouble with the line. The Panthers offense was at its best when the line started the same five players. As injuries have taken their toil with the loss to Michael Ivory the line’s play has become less effective. The Jags had five sacks as the right side of Georgia State’s line was consistently overwhelmed. That was just one part of the problem. On the fourth and goal play in which Arbuckle was stuffed for no gain, the line got no push. Arbuckle needed to go just a few inches and instead got pushed backward. The lack of push was so obvious it seemed that the line didn’t know the snap count. Having written that, the Panthers did eclipse 400 yards in offense.
4. Wide receivers. Donovan Harden continued his stellar play with 10 catches for 132 yards and two touchdowns. Robert Davis added four catches for 108 yards and tight end Joel Ruiz had seven catches for 75 yards and a touchdown. If the line can come together enough to give Arbuckle time to throw, this group of receivers is arguably the best in the Sun Belt. But Arbuckle has to have time to throw.
The Panthers (1-6, 0-4) will host Georgia Southern at the Georgia Dome.