Georgia State falls to Tennessee but shows potential

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Yes, Georgia State was beaten 51-13 by Tennessee on Saturday.

While there are still many important things to worry about (an offense that has one touchdown in eight quarters; a secondary that’s having trouble covering), the Panthers had a few things to feel good about after the game. That doesn’t include the $500,000 they received to be a FCS-labeled chew toy for Smokey, the Vols’ mascot.

Georgia State kept the game close for 25 minutes until the Vols’ execution and a combination of inopportune penalties and fumbles undid its chances at an upset. But unlike their first two games against FBS opponents, losses to Alabama (63-7) in 2010 and Houston (56-0) last year, coach Bill Curry liked that his players weren’t intimidated playing in one of the biggest stadiums in college football in a game no one thought they could win.

“It’s a step forward but we need to keep closer a lot longer than that to have a chance,” coach Bill Curry said. “When it got out of hand we needed to keep fighting and we did.”

In the end, neither Georgia State’s offense or defense could keep up with a Tennessee team that was too big, too fast and too deep, showing some of the difference between a program that has been playing for more than 120 years and one that has been playing for three. The Vols scored 34 points in the second and third quarters and finished with 558 yards, but the Panthers did force two punts and created two turnovers. Even in the fourth quarter, when Georgia State could have rolled over, they made the Vols go to fourth and goal before they chalked up their final touchdown with 5:47 left.

“At the end of the day, we want to say that we played hard and we maxed out our effort,” defensive coordinator Anthony Midget said.

Even that wasn’t enough. In a sign of defiance that caused a few boos, Curry called two timeouts in the final seconds, trying to keep the game going instead of letting the Vols take a knee and run out the clock.

“We’re going to use everything we have,” he said. “We won’t ever let it go. If we get possession with four seconds left, we’re going to try to score another one because that’s what we are.”

Some wondered if this would be similar to Savannah State’s 84-point loss to Oklahoma State last week. Though the margin of defeat was nowhere that lopsided, there are plenty of things to worry about for the Panthers.

Ben McLane, a redshirt freshman making his second start, fumbled six times, several on the snap out of the shotgun formation.

“That’s on me,” he said. “I look at coverage sometimes…and I’m not exactly 100-percent focused on the snap. It’s something I got to keep focusing on and get those taken care of.”

One of those fumbles came on a play in the second half that would have resulted in a touchdown, exemplifying Curry’s point that the team has to eliminate mistakes. McLane dropped back with Albert Wilson streaking down field open. As McLane pulled the ball back, it slipped and flew backward. It was the second time in as many weeks that has occurred.

“That really hurt,” said McLane, who competed 18 of his 41 attempts for 176 yards. “Albert ran a great route. We had them.”

A week after giving up six sacks, the offensive line gave up three more, including one on second and goal at the 4-yard line in the first quarter. The offense finally broke through with its first touchdown of the season on the last possession of the game when McLane ran in from 12 yards out with 58 seconds remaining. Though it made no difference in the result, he said it did a lot for the team’s confidence.

“Just for our whole team, hopefully we can use that to get some momentum going into next week and for the whole season,” he said.

There are still issues on defense as well. The secondary, which was supposed to be the team’s strength, allowed 374 yards a week after giving up 300 to South Carolina State. The defensive backs weren’t helped by the line and linebackers, featuring numerous underclassmen, who couldn’t get close to Vols quarterback Tyler Bray, who completed 18 of his 20 attempts for 310 yards and four touchdowns. The defense didn’t have a sack for the second consecutive week.

But there were also glimpses of what the team could become when it becomes bowl eligible in 2014-15. McLane calmly led the team on a scoring drive on its first possession, whipping passes of 26 and 24 yards in between running for seven yards on fourth and one in a call that showed Curry didn’t bring his team three hours north to go through the paces. Sophomore kicker Christian Benvenuto didn’t miss a field goal. Freshman defensive tackle Joe Lockley had an interception. Freshman linebacker Joseph Peterson had nine tackles.

“There was much more grit and determination today than there was a week ago and there will be more next week and the next and the next,” Curry said. “That’s a promise. This group is going to be special.”

Tennessee rolled down the field on its first drive, taking a 7-0 led on a 1-yard run by Rajion Neal. The drive covered 78 yards in 4 minutes, 14 seconds.

Georgia State answered with a 32-yard field by Benvenuto on a drive in which Georgia State had first and goal on the Vols’ 3-yard line, but couldn’t capitalize with a touchdown. Offensive coordinator John Bond promised he would get Donald Russell and Wilson involved early, something that didn’t occur in the season-opening loss. Russell carried the ball several times, including a 26-yard run that set up the first and goal. Wilson had a catch for 24 yards and carries on a reverse for six yards. Curry even went for it fourth and one at the 49-yard line, securing the first down with a McLane sneak. It was the first points scored by Georgia State’s offense against a FBS opponent in three games.

The Vols missed a 38-yard field goal on their next possession.

The Panthers began to move the ball again on their next possession, with Russell running right for 11 yards and McLane finding Wilson for 9. But then Georgia State showed its nerves and the Vols showed their strength. McLane mishandled a shotgun snap on second and 1 for a loss of 14 yards, and the Vols overran the Panthers’ offensive line on third and 15, sacking McLane for a loss of 10 yards.

The Vols increased their lead to 14-3 with 10:58 left in the first half on a 19-yard touchdown pass from Bray to Mychal Rivera, who was left wide open on a play-action pass. The scoring pass was set up by a 35-yard punt return by Devrin Young.

Benvenuto kicked a 30-yard field goal to cut the margin to 14-6 with 5:37 left in the first half. The drive started when linebacker Mark Hogan forced a fumble and Terrance Woodard recovered on the Vols’ 41-yard line. McLane continued to look sharp, despite two of his best receivers, Danny Williams (DNP-ankle) and Jordan Giles (shoulder), off the field with injuries. Instead, he  found Nathaniel Minor for 10 yards and later hit Lynquez Blair for eight yards.

Tennessee answered quickly, needing just four plays to take a 21-6 lead on a 25-yard scoring pass from Bray to Hunter, who was open because of play-action. The previous two plays, both runs by Neal, resulted in 30 yards to set up the touchdown pass.

The Vols made it 28-6 just before halftime with a 10-yard pass from Bray to Hunter. Tennessee needed three pass plays, including a 46-yard reception by Patterson, to cover 78 yards.

“I was really impressed with how our line held up, how our receivers played, and how our running backs played,” Wilson said. “I told them that if we have the same fight in us (from now on) that we’re going to have a great season.”

– Doug Roberson, AJC. Please follow me on twitter @ajcgsu

40 comments Add your comment

Sluggo

September 8th, 2012
9:21 pm

Our guys showed up and exceeded expectations. Build on it and continue to get better. On to what seems to be an explosive UTSA team. #Bleedblue.

panther

September 8th, 2012
9:38 pm

This game really showed McLane’s accuracy and arm off. Four years of him at the helm and we might actually have a class QB to work with. I am excited for the future after seeing the potential we have.

Steve Nash's Pick and Roll

September 8th, 2012
9:39 pm

They looked like a whole new team! If they play half as good against the filth that is the VAA they should be just fine.

GSU season ticket holder

September 8th, 2012
9:43 pm

Ben needs to clean up the mistakes & the DB’s need to cover better & we can really do some damage! Go Panthers!! #STATEOFSHOCK style

Aldo Raine

September 8th, 2012
10:14 pm

Proud of GSU.

Expected to get pounded. Got pounded. BUT, we had chances to put more points up.

Go Panthers!!

September 8th, 2012
11:31 pm

I wonder how different it could have gone had Donald not fallen down on the 3 yard line on that early drive.

Score a touchdown there, and who knows where our confidence could have gone?

BariBlue

September 9th, 2012
12:30 am

Proud of our team. definitely showing improvement. Let’s get a W against UTSA. Go Panthers!

STATEment

September 9th, 2012
3:02 am

I am proud of how we played today.. More than I can say about the houston and bama games as well as most games over the past 3 years. Let’s take this and come with the same effort with less mistakes every week.

RidgeRunner

September 9th, 2012
7:07 am

Sad score but some bright points to build on and perhaps turn this season around.

RidgeRunner

September 9th, 2012
7:09 am

Doug, what is the injury report?

Nostalgem

September 9th, 2012
8:17 am

Impressed with McLane early then the boy seemed to fall apart; he’s got to be able to run it a bit more and get out of that pocket!
Russell and Wilson are work horses … they sure put in a day’s worth.
Our kicking was great!!!
Special team’s still need lot of work and the practice field.
Question of the day…why not more Paris more often??

PT

September 9th, 2012
8:55 am

The Vols played their starters until the end of the 3rd qtr. You would think they would be down to walk on players in the 4th, but that was not the case. GSU moved the ball quite well on their subs. GSU went toe to toe in the 1st qtr. I was impressed. I was not impressed with Neyland Stadium, unbelievable. A banner in the stadium said they won a National Title in 1938, that title game was obviously played there.

Panther Pride

September 9th, 2012
9:07 am

This team showed signs but just as important the Georgia State fans and student body need to show up to games and support this team. Fan support not only effects performances on the field but it also has an affect on potential recruits that come to games to check out the atmosphere. If you want to have a solid football team you have to have solid fan support to encourage players to come play for your school.

I’ll definitely be in the stands this coming Saturday and I’m hoping this team starts to see a rise in fan support.

Panthersville.com

September 9th, 2012
9:19 am

Oddly, I was also not as impressed with Neyland as I thought I would be. Bryant-Denny seemed much bigger. Maybe Neyland is just steeper?

GoVawls

September 9th, 2012
9:25 am

Sounds like some pretty sour grapes from a couple of you mopes.

GSU is in Atlanta

September 9th, 2012
9:32 am

Happy to see some bright spots from some GSU players, which there were little to none the week before. I hope we can build upon them and then apply them to the UTSA game.

A little bit more hopeful for the rest of the season.

10Dawgs

September 9th, 2012
1:01 pm

I clicked on the Dogs beat Missouri link on the home page and got this junk. GET YOUR ACT TOGTHER, AJC!

Panther

September 9th, 2012
1:26 pm

@10Dawgs
It’s a sign you should switch teams

Say WHAT!

September 9th, 2012
1:26 pm

How much did Curry slip you to write this garbage? This is a Dooley coached TN team and the game becomes UNCLOSE by 43 points in 35 mins. That is horrible, anyway you try to paint this.

Say WHAT!

September 9th, 2012
1:29 pm

ajg-marietta

September 9th, 2012
2:17 pm

Nice to see progress from the Team.

Hopefully wee can get some payback against UTSA.

peachy

September 9th, 2012
2:17 pm

You lose 51-13 and you see bright spots? Man, you guys are desperate!

fan who can see

September 9th, 2012
2:20 pm

Its amazing I read a couple of post saying they were impressed with McClain’s arm, he only threw underneath routes, mostly to Albert and missed on EVERYTHING and I do mean EVERYTHING else. He also threw several balls that should have picked, but were dropped by TN. He FUMBLED six times and we were not able to run the ball. We also did not run the ball well in the operner. If I recall, we nearly had 250-300 yards rushing last year against SC State and about the same number of yards passing. Is the offense better now than I was then or even the later part of last season? I guarentee you, if we stay in this offense, we will not rush for a 1000 yards as a team. Ask the players?

JJ

September 9th, 2012
3:02 pm

Vol fan here and you GSU folks should be quite proud of how your team played. I’ve seen much better teams simply give up but your guys hung in there and fought. Even though you were outmatched, even though the score made it impossible to comeback, your guys went down fighting. Also, your freshman QB even though he was plagued by snap and handling problems took a beating and kept getting back up. He reminded me of FL QB Wuerffel in that it just didn’t seem possible anyone could take that many hits and keep playing.

That said, I don’t agree with what Coach Smith did. We sent in our 2nd, 3rd, and 4th strings at the half so they could get experience and so the score wouldn’t be run up and the timeout at the end was an insult even if he didn’t intend it to be, He also made Dooley walk all the way across the field after the game rather than meeting him in the middle. It’s tough to lose and it’s clear Smith is a good coach but that was in poor taste.

Good luck with the rest of your season. I hope your team does well!

JJ

September 9th, 2012
3:05 pm

^^Sorry meant to say Coach Curry.

Doug Roberson

September 9th, 2012
3:39 pm

The underneath routes are the offense. After giles went out, the offense was using a largely inexperienced group of receivers, other than wilson. Mclane did have fumbles, but that’s a not a skill issue, it’s a focus issue. Mclane also had several passes dropped, at least one by russell and two by wilson, i believe.

[...] STATE: Has been outscored 84-19 by South Carolina State and Tennessee. Bill Curry says he sees progress, though. Heat Index: On the plus side, the Panther basketball team starts practice Oct. [...]

GSUFAN

September 10th, 2012
8:50 am

Blueblooded: get your facts straight

@proven

September 10th, 2012
8:56 am

Blueblooded, weren’t you the guy that said #33 would never step foot on the field? It’s awful when people wish others screw up so their favorite good or bad benefits from it.

Monkey

September 10th, 2012
9:14 am

Clearly some of you were not at the game. The boys did us proud and fought to the end.

Did anyone really expect a third year team to go into Tennessee and do any better?

Work on those mistakes. We could have easily had 4 touchdowns.

Looking forward to the next game. Go Panthers!

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution Recap [...]

GSU1stYearFan

September 10th, 2012
10:47 am

First to the game. Tennessee was held in check so many ways. The only play that killed our game was the throws to the flats. The whole game they keyed our #5. If you replay the touch downs most were the same. Maybe those who doubt the ability of GSU should take this into consideration. THIS IS AN SEC OPPONENT!!

They are fast, agressive, and willing to figuratively punch you in the mouth.

As the game progressed I feel our offensive and defensive lines did an incredible job “getting in the face” of Tennessee. My seats were in the heart of Tennessee fans, one fan asked me if our #20 was the running back let go from Georgia. The silence in the stands from the fans around me spoke tons about GSU. They (the fans) were expecting a blow out as the first drive Tennessee took the ball down the field. They were quickly subdued when out QB converted time after time on third down and ‘impossible’ – - – not once by time after time.

Our physicallity was respected (at least in the stands) and many of those around me felt worried as GSU reached the red zone (again – time after time). In reaility, GSU extremely close in creating a 14- 14 game.

Kudos and new found respect for the offensive line, the running backs, the receivers, and our QB (just think the damage we would have created if there weren’t ANY issues on the snap).

Defensively, guys you rock! You were hurt by one play (in my opinion). And, if I were Tennessee coaching staff, i would run that play time and again until GSU made the correct adjustment. Unfortunately, we never did. Without that one repetitive play would we have won? realistically no, but the scoreboard would surely be a heck of a lot closer.

My daughter (through text messaging) commented on the impact the score in the fourth quater brought to the fans. Her comment was “I thought the [GSU] fans were going to storm the field when they [GSU] scored.” Yes, I think we would have had we thought about it. It was our first score (TD – that is) for the year, we were knocking at the door most of the day, and the team never backed down.

GSU1stYearFan

September 10th, 2012
10:56 am

For the record books – another little team you may know about – the other GSU (Georgia Southern University), once played an SEC opponent during their infancy. That opponent was Florida. How did Ga Southern fare? They lost 72 – 0. The next season they entered their current conference and won the national title, held that winning tradition for most of that decade too if I am not mistaken. In looking at the effort put forth on the field in Tennessee – these guys (our Panthers) have the opportunity if they want to make the rest of the season all W’s — they can.

Highly Respected Southern Troll

September 10th, 2012
11:31 am

@GSU1stYearFan – There was no 72-0 game with Georgia Southern and Florida. They beat us 38-14 in 1986 and then 62-14 during Frank Ellwood’s lone (4-7) season in 1996.

[...] GSU falls to Vols, shows potential [...]

Chicken Bone

September 10th, 2012
1:52 pm

Can Kelton Hill play corner???????

[...] GSU falls to Vols, shows potential [...]

GSU1stYearFan

September 10th, 2012
5:24 pm

@ Highly Respected – - Crow tastes terrible, My facts were wrong. Thank you for the correction.

To the intent. Good teams face failure. Champions over come obstacles by learning from mistakes.

Penna CAA Fan?

September 10th, 2012
6:54 pm

Does Georgia Southern still play football?

[...] GSU falls to Vols, shows potential [...]