Of Georgia State’s eight losses last season, perhaps none was more demoralizing than the 17-14 defeat in overtime at Texas-San Antonio.
“It was devastating,” coach Bill Curry said.
The hangover from that “unnecessary loss,” as Curry described it, carried over in losses in the next games to St. Francis, an NAIA school, and West Alabama, a Division II school.
The Panthers will get a chance to make amends and show their new mental fortitude when they host the Roadrunners at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Georgia Dome.
“It’s not so much that we owe UTSA, we owe ourselves to play our best and be impressive and make the right calls in a game like this,” Curry said.
The Panthers seemed to start the season still mourning that loss. They were beaten handily by South Carolina State in the opener and were hammered 51-13 by Tennessee. But don’t expect a demoralized effort Saturday similar to last year’s. The difference in how the Panthers are reacting illustrates how the team has matured.
The loss to the Volunteers, unlike last season’s loss in San Antonio, seems to have lifted the team. They went into Neyland Stadium, one of the more intimidating college football stadiums, and held their own for a while. Their confidence grew.
“It was obvious after 25 minutes that we had a chance to compete,” Curry said. “The guys were beginning to look at each other and say, ‘We’re doing this thing.’ The most fun in the world is to go into a stadium that’s the loudest place you’ve ever been in your life and make it quiet. We had them quiet for about 25 minutes, but then we let them off the hook. We kept playing hard, and that’s admirable. But that wasn’t the objective. The objective was to be in the game with a chance to win.”
A lesson the coaching staff has taught for 24 games seems to have been learned.
“We recognized that we had another level, another gear,” offensive tackle Grant King said. “Coming off this Tennessee loss, practices are much faster, a lot more crisp than they were before practicing for [the opener].
“We are getting a lot of things fixed, smaller things that were bothering us against Tennessee. I think we will have a lot of success against UTSA.”
If Georgia State is to win this time, it needs to mix a little bit of what it did well then with what it’s doing well now.
The Panthers jumped to a 14-0 lead in the Alamodome. However, they have scored one touchdown on offense this season.
The Panthers committed numerous penalties in that game, including back-to-back roughing-the-passer penalties that helped set up the Roadrunners to make a 30-yard field goal just before the half. The Panthers also lined up offside on third down in the third quarter, a penalty that kept a scoring drive alive. Lastly, they started overtime with a false-start penalty the eventually led to a missed 45-yard field-goal attempt. However, the team has been called for only seven penalties this season, 11 fewer than its opponents.
King said a difference in attitude last year compared with this year has the team beginning to focus on the steps it takes to win, rather than the result. That is another lesson the coaches have been trying to teach.
“When we went into Tennessee last week, we took it upon ourselves to have fun,” he said. “It showed. We were a higher tempo, higher pace; we enjoyed the game.”
– Doug Roberson, AJC. Please follow me on twitter @ajcgsu