Hope you guys enjoyed the game. Let me just say first that I was fairly stunned at what happened. I figured it wouldn’t be close. My contention is that Georgia State right now rates as a middle-of-the-road FCS team and, given that the Panthers were playing a very good FCS team, it figured that JSU would put it on them.
For what it’s worth, I talked with Al Muskewitz, the JSU beat writer at the Anniston Star (you can read his stuff here when it gets posted) and I asked him if players or coaches on the JSU side said that they played flat, kind of like Georgia State did last week. He said he didn’t hear that, but it’s just that they play that way all the time, apparently against whomever. They were down 18 against Ole Miss in the fourth quarter and 17 to Tennessee-Chattanooga last week. Perhaps they’re just not a team that can put away other teams.
Regardless, whatever the explanation, Georgia State very nearly beat the No. 4 team in FCS.
“I think we can build off this and other teams better watch out,” defensive end Kalan Jenkins said.
So, three observations.
1. Drew Little played improbably better than last week.
I think more than a few of you wrote him off after his three-interception stinker last week. He was on his game today and looked like someone who could make it very hard for Star Jackson to become the starter (more on that in a minute).
He completed passes to nine different receivers. He fit balls into tight spots, converted third downs and looked very comfortable throwing.
Said offensive coordinator John Bond, “I had a feeling after the way Drew had been challenged in practice, I felt like he was going to come out and play well.”
Consider this, too. Little was doing it when GSU was basically one-dimensional. Take away Darren McCray’s reverse and Travis Evans‘ touchdown run – 87 yards total – and GSU ran 20 times for 25 yards. Bond knew going in GSU would have trouble on the ground, so he anticipated relying on Little a lot.
So put that pressure on him, plus he’s got Kelton Hill and Jackson breathing down his neck, and it gives you a little more appreciation for what he did.
On the game-tying drive in the fourth quarter, he was 5-for-8 for 52 yards and converted two third downs with passes.
Your Star Jackson update: Obviously, Little’s play made it something of a moot point to put Jackson in. That said, I asked Bill Curry if there was a thought of playing him going in.
“There’s always a thought of playing Star because he’s a great player,” he said, “but when you’ve got a quarterback that has earned the job, here’s the thing: You’ve got to earn your spot.”
If it sounds denigrating to Jackson, I don’t think he intended for it to be, because, for one thing, he went on to praise Jackson for being so supportive of his teammates during the game. Basically, Jackson still has to keep improving. It probably sounds ludicrous to some that Little is a better quarterback than Jackson. And certainly, everything else being equal, I’d have to believe Jackson is better.
But you have to remember Jackson is still relatively new. I remember on the first day of fall practice, the quarterbacks were just practicing snaps and handoffs, and Little had to tell Jackson what the different plays were.
Now, obviously, that was a long time ago and Jackson’s learned plenty. But not quite enough, apparently, to overtake Little. And let’s remember it’s not like Little can’t play.
“His time will come, but with Drew playing like that, he had to get the ball,” Curry said.
2. Defense better, but still not so hot.
JSU had 10 drives in regulation. One was a kneel-down at the end of the first half. Of the other nine, five ended in a score and a sixth looked like it was headed that way until time expired in regulation. That’s not a good ratio.
The Gamecocks ran 71 plays for 450 yards, averaging 6.3 yards per play despite no play going longer than 21 yards. (Context: GSU ran 62 plays for 339 yards, but a quarter of them came on two plays. Translation: JSU was consistent, GSU was less so but was more explosive.) Georgia State also missed multiple chances for interceptions. And the Panthers got very little pressure on quarterback Marques Ivory, who completed 24 of 32 passes.
This comes with the caveat that this is the same JSU offense that put up 49 points on Ole Miss (which lost 28-14 to Vanderbilt Saturday, if you’re wondering). But if you flip it, the GSU offense managed to play pretty well against a defense that held Ole Miss to three points in the fourth quarter. So you can’t have it both ways.
On the plus side, the defense came up with some pretty important stands, holding JSU twice to field goals after the Gamecocks had gotten inside the GSU 10-yard line.
But, as coordinator John Thompson noted, the big plays were lacking.
“We’ve got to get turnovers,” he said. “We get turnovers in this game, the outcome’s going to be different.”
3. The crowd was better than last week.
The attendance was 16,128. The number includes no-shows, and I guess there must have been a lot of no-shows. I’d say it was half-full at best, and probably a little less than that. I’d put it at 12,000 people in the seats if I had to guess.
A GSU staffer was sort of giving me a hard time (good naturedly, I think) for pinning down school president Mark Becker about student attendance (get to that in a minute) and pointed to the fact that for an FCS game, the school is doing pretty well. (At least I think I remember hearing that.)
It is certainly true. If you take announced attendance, GSU is averaging about 19,000 fans. Last year, 19,000 fans would put you at sixth in FCS, ahead of (ahem) a certain school in Statesboro (16,728 in 2009). You could say, ‘Yeah, well, those numbers are inflated.’ It may be the case – I would say so – but I’m going to guess the other schools are counting the same way.
I guess you have to decide for yourself what success is, attendance-wise, this year and in the future. Is outdrawing most FCS schools what you’re after? Anyway, beforehand, I said a “win” would be 15,000 and the team gave JSU some trouble. So, definitely a win on the field and maybe a tie in the stands. (sorry, no overtime on the blog.)
Anyway, the student section had, I think, a little over 3,000, after 2,800 last week. So, the difference between a no-name opponent and about the best team you can bring into the Georgia Dome is 300 fans. (Kidding. Sort of.)
I asked Becker what he thought about the student attendance, saying it was 3,000 and he said, “I don’t know how many students were here. I thought we had a great crowd.” And then I told him it was 3,000 and asked him if he’d like to see more students at the game. He said, “I’d like to see everybody in Atlanta at our stadium. I’d like to see it sold out.”
So, kind of a non-answer answer. You could reasonably interpret that to mean that he wasn’t exactly bananas about it, but wasn’t going to say it.
Again, I guess you can decide for yourself what 3,000 means. How important is it for students to be there? I’d say, big picture, in terms of the team establishing itself in the market, it’s not that big a deal. If the team eventually starts winning and averaging a legit 15K without much student attendance, I imagine the athletic department would be OK with that. I’m sure GSU wouldn’t be the first school in that boat. But it would be kind of weird.
I talked to a few folks before and during the game who thought that maybe the games were too early. And, again, Georgia Tech and Georgia were playing at the same time. I’m going to guess next season the schedule will be a little different than this year in terms of game times.
That’s all I got. Please follow me on Twitter!