Georgia State’s football game at James Madison seems like it couldn’t come at a worse time for the Panthers.
Coach Bill Curry said the Dukes are the most physical team they have seen this year.
And the Panthers may have to expand their training room to accommodate all of their injured players, which includes running back Donald Russell and key members of the defensive line.
But Curry said they will play hard and not make excuses for two reasons: “We could excuse ourselves and the instant we do that you guarantee that you aren’t going to win.” And when a team doesn’t make excuses and keeps trying, “it’s a funny thing that happens, you win some games.”
Beating No. 9 James Madison, which was the No. 2 team in FCS before last week’s loss to Richmond, would be the biggest victory in program history. It would also be the most unlikely, based upon the health of the two teams.
James Madison is tops in the CAA in scoring defense (18.57 points allowed per game) and is led by linebacker Stephon Robertson, who has 65 tackles, 15 more than the next best on the team.
“I think he typifies their physicality,” Curry said. “They are going to hit, going to strike you. He’s going to jack you up and throw you down … hard.”
The Panthers, conversely, will be without Russell, who was the leading rusher in the CAA before suffering a torn MCL in his left knee in last week’s loss to Villanova. He will miss the remainder of the season for a team that’s averaging 17 points and 317 yards per game, both among the worst in the conference.
On offense, the Dukes are led by guard Earl Watford, a 6-4, 295-pound hammer that defensive coordinator Anthony Midget said will end up in the NFL. Behind Watford, the Dukes are averaging 34 points and 421 yards per game.
“He finishes everything,” Curry said. “If a back doesn’t follow him into a gaping hole, he goes back looking for the back to show him where he should have run.”
Watford will be looking across at a defensive line that could be missing ends Melvin King (knee) and C.J. Stephens (undisclosed) and tackle Joe Lockley (knee). All three have been dealing with injuries and didn’t play in the game against Villanova. As a result, Georgia State had to play several linebackers at defensive end and may have to do so against the Dukes.
In addition, defensive tackle Terrance Woodard has been playing with an injured ankle that Curry said affected him last week.
But Curry isn’t going to make excuses because of injuries. He reasons every team is dealing with injuries, noting that the Green Bay Packers recent Super Bowl-winning team also had more players put on the injured reserve than any team in the NFL.
So the Panthers will head to Harrisonburg, Va. with what Curry described as a good plan in all areas.
You never know when one of these games will go Georgia State’s way.
“We aren’t the Green Bay Packers but we are a football team that’s trying to learn how to handle adversity,” Curry said.
– Doug Roberson, AJC. Please follow me on twitter @ajcgsu