Georgia State coach Bill Curry saw progress in the 51-13 loss to Tennessee, but said the team can’t keep making unforced errors on offense and defense.
Though the offense totaled just 34 yards more against the Vols than it did in the season-opening loss to South Carolina State (263-229), Curry liked that the offense had two 13-play drives, scored its first touchdown this season on a run by quarterback Ben McLane, and showed “some spunk” in the fourth quarter.
However, the team wasted an opportunity to score a touchdown on first-and-goal on its first possession. The Panthers settled for a field goal.
“Once you have the drive you have to take it in the end zone,” Curry said. The Panthers will host Texas-San Antonio at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Georgia Dome.
The progression of the offense, facing a bigger, faster, deeper opponent, can be traced to the improved play of the offensive line and McLane, a redshirt freshman who was making the second start of his career.
Neither looked settled in the opener, resulting in McLane being sacked five times and passing for just 54 yards. He later said that he was too worried about not throwing interceptions and that he needed to relax and trust his technique.
He seemed ready (mostly) against the Vols. Curry said a slant to Jordan Giles on the first drive showed that McLane seemed to be trying to do what he showed in the spring and August. The pass was thrown into a small window that resulted in 25 yards and converted a third-and-20 situation.
“I think that settled him down more than the rest of us,” Curry said. “And then he proceeded to make more good throws in the game.”
McLane passed for 176 yards, completing 18 of his 41 attempts. One area of concern was his fumbles, six of them, that Curry said must be fixed. McLane took the blame after the game, saying he needs to focus on the ball rather than trying to get one more quick look at the secondary.
“We have too many unforced errors right now,” Curry said.
McLane was helped by a line that pass-blocked much better than it did the first game. While McLane was sacked three times by the Vols, he didn’t need to scramble as often as he did against South Carolina State.
“The whole offensive line performed grade-wise much better than it did the first week,” Curry said.
The offense may be without two important weapons this week in starting wide receivers Giles and Danny Williams. Giles injured a shoulder against the Vols. Williams suffered an ankle injury against South Carolina State the prevented him from playing in Knoxville. Curry said both are day to day.
The defense showed progress but the secondary, which was supposed to be a strength before the season because it features two seniors, a redshirt junior and a junior, continues to struggle.
After allowing the Bulldogs to pass for 300 yards, the Vols rolled up 374 more with four touchdowns. Two touchdowns were the result of play-action passes in which either the linebacker or defensive backs mis-read the play, allowing a receiver to run open.
“I know that our guys can play,” Curry said. “We just have to play with more confidence. We’ve got to stick with them and believe in them. They do have the ability to perform.”
Just like McLane was helped by the improvement of the offensive line, the secondary should improve as the front seven of the defense improves its pass-rushing efforts. They failed to post a sack for the second consecutive game, though Curry said they did play much better as the entire group continues to learn the 4-2-5 system.
“It all works together,” Curry said.
– Doug Roberson, AJC. Please follow me on twitter @ajcgsu