As many of you know, Georgia State was beaten by Charlotte 23-20 on Friday in its season-opening game. The Panthers will travel to New Mexico State to play Saturday in the first Sun Belt Conference game this season for both teams.
Georgia State coach Trent Miles said during the fall camp that there are a few things that Georgia State needs to do each game to be successful.
How did the Panthers do in those areas against the 49ers?
Take care of the football
At minus-1.83 per game, the Panthers had the worst turnover margin in FBS last year. They weren’t much better on Friday. Georgia State had three turnovers, all in the decisive first quarter. The first turnover on the first series, a fumble by wide receiver Glenn Smith, may not have been a fumble but it was called that way on the field and there wasn’t enough evidence on the replay to overturn that call. The other two, a fumble by running back Kyler Neal and an interception by Nick Arbuckle were clear. Neal’s fumble came after a nice gain on a screen pass. Arbuckle’s came on a poor decision and happened in the end zone, taking at least three points off the board for the Panthers.
Play aggressively on defense
The Panthers had one of the worst rush defenses and pass rushes in FBS last year. Though they gave up 408 yards, the team looked much better on defense than at any point last year. It had five takeaways, all by safety Bobby Baker, and allowed just three points and less than 150 yards in the second half. The team also had four sacks as part of eight tackles for loss. Those last two stats — turnovers and sacks — are what must be particularly galling: it’s seldom that a defense can create nine impact plays and still lose. It’s also not something that can be counted on week to week.
The defense allowed 164 rushing yards, which isn’t ideal, but the 49ers averaged just 3 yards per carry, which is pretty good.
Part of playing aggressively is not giving up the big play, and the Panthers were burned by a 63-yard touchdown pass, and an inability to get off the field on third down. The 49ers converted more than 50 percent of those chances, including a few late in the game.
Establish the run
The Panthers averaged less than 100 yards per game last year. This was once again a failure. The team rushed for 93 yards. Only Taz Bateman could get anything going consistently against a 49ers front seven that used a lot of movement and twists to disrupt Georgia State’s blocking schemes.
It is bizarre that in three seasons Georgia State still hasn’t been able to consistently run the ball. The team has added depth on the line and at running back but it seems that nothing that is being tried works for very long.
Now, the team may be without one of the key offseason signings in running back Kendrick Dorn. He didn’t play on Friday and coach Trent Miles said on his radio show that Dorn may be out for several weeks because of a knee injury. Dorn may be the best all-around back on Georgia State’s roster, based upon what I saw in practice.
Get the ball to the skill-position players
The Panthers finished with 299 passing yards, but it was a quiet 299. Smith led the team with six receptions, but finished with just 19 yards. Robert Davis had five catches for 57 yards. Penny Hart had the big play, a 53-yard touchdown catch.
The wide receivers weren’t helped by a few underthrown deep balls by Arbuckle. Nor were they helped by two offensive pass-interference penalties.
Play well on special teams
A blocked field goal was one of the difference-making plays in this game. Charlotte was able to get a push right up the middle (a special teams no-no) and get a hand on Wil Lutz’s 44-yard attempt in the fourth quarter. Lutz finished 2-of-3.
Other than the block, which is like asking Col. Rathbone how the play went, the special teams performed well. The punt coverage team averaged 48.3 yards on six punts, most of which were a rugby-style kick. The kickoff coverage team 43.5 yards on four kickoffs.