Georgia State’s defense has stifled the offense for much of preseason camp.
It’s not the ideal situation for the Panthers but, for coach Bill Curry, it’s the next best thing.
“if you have to choose, it’s a lot better to have the defense ahead at this stage of the year–a lot better,” Curry said. “Because that’s how you win. I know today’s football is different. You have got to drive and score. You have to. But you’d better play some defense.”
The Panthers have done a lot of that during camp.
The defense dominated during the first scrimmage last weekend. GSU’s offense responded with a better effort Tuesday but the defense was back in command during the scrimmage Saturday, which Curry said would be the last featuring starters vs. starters.
The Panthers had six interceptions during the scrimmage periods.
“We always focus on turnovers,” freshman linebacker Joseph Peterson said. “We have to win the turnover ratio a lot in games. Turnovers are a big deal for us and that turns the momentum.”
That’s what happened early in the scrimmage, after it looked like the GSU offense was going to have its way.
Starting from the 20, the Panthers moved crisply down the field with quarterback Ben McLane keeping a good tempo in the no-huddle offense. GSU earned a first-and-goal at the 10 after converting its second third down in nine plays.
But on second down, Peterson stepped in front of tight end Alex Smith to intercept McLane’s pass in the end zone. That started a trend for the Panthers: McLane had two more interceptions on the day, Kelton Hill also had two and Ronnie Bell had one.
McLane said the quarterbacks have to improve their decision-making.
“It’s in critical situations taking care of the ball: red zone, third downs,” he said. “Being mentally tough so when we get behind or have a drives stall we need to pick it up.”
It wasn’t all bad for the GSU offense.
The Panthers ran the ball effectively, a good sign because they are breaking in four new starters on the offensive line. Curry also noted that the offense played a lot of reserve offensive linemen and wide receivers, which contributed to some issues with protection and route running.
Still, Curry said the Panthers should have finished drives better.
“What’s disturbing is there ought to be sometimes we sustain an offensive drive no matter what the defense is doing where we take it and score,” Curry said. “We didn’t do that and that’s going to be demanded when we play [games].”
Players who sat out with injuries included cornerback Jamal Ransby, defensive linemen McClain Head and Nermin Delic and offensive linemen Treavor Flannigan and Grant King. . . .
With Christian Benvenuto suspended for the season opener because of his role in a fight, Curry said David Miller is the No. 1 kicker and Matt Ehasz is the backup. Wil Lutz, a freshman walk-on from Newnan, is handling kickoffs.
The Panthers have yet to receive word from the NCAA on the status of transfers Bell (Ohio University), Delic (Kentucky) and Theo Agnew (Massachusetts). They must be cleared to be eligible to play in games. . . .
The defensive line starters were David Huey at tackle, Terrance Woodard at nose guard, and John Kelly and C.J. Stephens at the ends.
– Michael Cunningham, filling in for Doug, ajc.com. Follow on twitter @ajcgsu