Georgia State pounded in opener as growing pains continue

Georgia State coach Bill Curry didn't have much to cheer about again Thursday. (Jason Getz/AJC)

Georgia State coach Bill Curry didn't have much to cheer about in opener. (Jason Getz/AJC)

If you haven’t kept up on the uniquely metamorphosing Georgia State football program, it goes something like this:

The Panthers started playing games in 2010. Their first schedule of Colonial Athletic Association games is this season (Year 3). But they’re not eligible for the CAA championship because they’ve already decided to jump to the Sun Belt. The NCAA’s mandated two-year transition to FBS means they can’t compete for championships or bowls until 2014 — not that it was realistic anyway — which effectively means they will have played four years of exhibition games (45) by the end of 2013.

And you thought the NFL preseason was long.

There’s an obvious advantage to this: New programs typically get beat up, and Georgia State has been no exception to this. So this extended stretch of unofficial-ness allows Georgia State athletic director Cheryl Levick to tell prospective donors, “Don’t worry, it’s just growing pains. Just wait until the games really count. Would you like another shrimp?”

But the downside is equally obvious. Georgia State is moving up quickly, maybe too quickly. It wasn’t that long ago when the school didn’t even own a ball, a helmet or a roll of tape. The Panthers struggled against FCS teams. The Sun Belt is going to seem like the NFC East. Sure, you laugh, but the Panthers last season lost 56-0 to a team from Conference USA (Houston), 40-17 to one from the CAA (Old Dominion) and 48-28 to another from the Ohio Valley (Murray State). Nothing screams, “Next, we take Eastern Europe!”

Bill Curry won’t be around for the pain next year. He coached the final season opener of his career Thursday night when Georgia State was drummed by South Carolina State 33-6. The Panthers’ lumps will continue well into Curry’s retirement. Given what another 1-AA program just did to them, imagine what will happen when they start playing FBS programs on a regular basis.

Georgia State has had only two more lopsided losses and both came to FBS opponents, Alabama (63-7) and Houston.

“It’s happening way faster than you would like for it to,” he said. “But in today’s world of college football, you don’t get to choose a timetable. You would like to have the time to be able to build the rest of the elements of this program. You’d like to be able to do that over a six- or seven-year period like most of the other schools did. But in this day and age you either jump on the wagon or you’re left in the dirt.”

Georgia State didn’t make a football decision, it made a financial one. Competing at the FBS level, even while getting hammered, potentially provides more selling points during fundraising. The move to the Sun Belt (with Southeast-based institutions) also makes for less expensive travel for all of the sports programs than the CAA, whose members include campuses seemingly in another galaxy (Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island).

“In a time when there’s such a financial crunch, even when a lot of the so-called big-timers are operating in the red, we didn’t have a choice but to get into the Sun Belt,” Curry said. “We’ll just have to suck it up and do what we have to for a couple of years until we can compete.”

Some of the problems of a young team were evident early against South Carolina State, an FCS school that has played football since 1907. (If you’re keeping score, the age difference Thursday was 105-2.) A Georgia State cornerback, Isaiah Howard (sophomore), fell on the fourth snap of the game, allowing South Carolina State to complete a 78-yard touchdown pass to make the score 7-0. A sack and resulting fumble by Panthers quarterback Ben McLane (freshman) on the Georgia State 23 with just 40 seconds left in the half set up another Bulldogs touchdown, increasing the visitors’ lead to 14-3.

Here’s another problem: Attendance for the season opener was announced at only 18,921. Most of the student section behind one end zone was gone by midway through the third quarter. What does it say when a fan base is so quick to bolt?

Curry is hoping for the best this season, but he’s also a realist.

“We’re tougher physically, mentally and in every other way,” he said the other day. “Now we just have to be able to play football better. Those don’t always go hand-in-hand, but it sure helps.”

It will turn one day. But Georgia State shouldn’t get the idea of moving up again for a while.

By Jeff Schultz

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128 comments Add your comment

The Man

August 30th, 2012
10:53 pm

Thanks Jeff

Go Dawgs

Jay

August 30th, 2012
10:58 pm

At least they HAVE football. You’ve got Kennesaw State up there that had Vince Dooley make his infamous “Kansas State” press conference quote back on Sept. 15, 2010. No one has heard anything about them since. They hired a facilities guy for an AD that has no clue how to start a football program, so he had his associate call a finalist who was passed over for the Kennesaw State AD job to find out how to start a football program.

Reinhardt is starting football next year, albeit NAIA. The way Georgia State is progressing(?) I’d almost lay even money on a Georgia State/Reinhardt match-up.

All kidding aside, Georgia State is in a spot where they’re going to get slaughtered for a few years, but just by virtue of being able to go FBS so soon, they’ll be the envy of a lot of other schools in this state very quickly.

Georgia State Panthers

August 30th, 2012
10:59 pm

Get it together, guys. Dig deeper every single week.

GSU!!! GO PANTHERS!!!

CAA Football

August 30th, 2012
11:02 pm

Huzzah! Finally someone at the ajc strongly questions the move! Will they win one CAA game this year?

hbcuclassics

August 30th, 2012
11:05 pm

HBCU Classic Sports
Week 1

SC State 33
GA State 6
Final

Tenn Tech 31
Hampton 24
4Q

Charleston 44
Shaw 26
Final

http://www.hbcuclassics.com

Madkat

August 30th, 2012
11:08 pm

You’re right Jeff! Moving up too quickly for sure. Establish yourself at FCS level first, build the program with history. 0-11 will be devestating for recruiting assuming they can’t beat Texas-San Antonio. They need a new coach too right?

Madkat

August 30th, 2012
11:12 pm

The Sun Belt isn’t too much of a bigger jump from CAA. Should’ve stayed for a while. Attendance problems can kill a program, especially at the FBS level. But on a positive note the Panthers will be FBS next year.

5150 UOAD

August 30th, 2012
11:22 pm

A person SMART enough to know…..
August 29th, 2012
1:44 pm

I will be impressed if GaState can put up more than 17 points even more impressed if they can keep SCState to 21 or under on the scoreboard.
——————————————————————————–

Not a Debbie Downer but GaState stepped up in class tonight and is just not ready yet.
Please talk your crap about wanting some of Ga Southern and TECH now.

GaSate couldn’t handle a GOOD FCS team and you want to play FBS? LMMFAO

Go get you some Ga Southern…..LOL

You want to talk smack toe TECH?

Go play HBU and be happy.

JEFF is 0-2 on his prediction article. Not looking good JEFF.

GODAWGS

August 30th, 2012
11:46 pm

Where are the arrogant Georgia State fans now? You just got blown out by an FCS school.

But don’t worry, you’ll be FBS next year. That’ll make it all better. Good luck with that and congrats to the Sun Belt for choosing such a great football school to add to your mediocrity.

Opie

August 31st, 2012
12:07 am

hahahahahahahaahhaahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaahhahahahhaahah. (breathe) hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahahhahahhahahahahhahahahahahhahahahahhahahahahahah (breathe) hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah,

OpieGaSouthern

August 31st, 2012
12:08 am

The real GSU remains in Statesboro.
Best regards to Ben and panama.

tigonian02

August 31st, 2012
12:11 am

Man….Being a Georgia Southern grad it was always so infuriating hearing GState talk all their crap about how good they are going to be year after year. Your showing tonight was embarrassing to the state of Georgia, as well as the FCS , FBS, Sunbelt, CAA, and well….football in general. If you would have been more humble about your moves, and taken the time to actually develop your program, more people would feel sympathy for you guys. Most just laugh and shun nowadays. Get it together!

lance

August 31st, 2012
12:13 am

Joke program that should have never been started. Our colleges are more interested in sports than in actually educating kids. Shut it down and give the kids their fees back.

Panther

August 31st, 2012
12:14 am

Humbling, yes. But as Curry said, the option was to either move up while the opportunity was there, or don’t and risk not having the opportunity again. At any rate, the CAA isn’t going to be much easier than the Sun Belt, and so the best we can do is continue to test ourselves and continue to improve.

5150 UOAD

August 31st, 2012
12:19 am

Look every FAN is hyped for their team and the start of the season but that has to come with some trepidation as well. GaState fans have been “All Hat & No Cattle” for weeks now. Tonight should SHUT them UP and get them Focused on the movie “What About Bill” used as a tagline. Baby Steps. Don’t Talk SMACK to PROVEN over time teams fans. You can’t say a thing to the REAL Champion GSU much less Ga Tech. BABY STEPS.

GODAWGS

August 31st, 2012
12:25 am

Panther, you talk about continuing to improve? You haven’t improved at all. You started out 6-5, then 3-8 last year. Now you’re looking at 0-11 for at least the next two years. Thats what we call taking a step back, not improving.

EKY Panther

August 31st, 2012
6:16 am

No question that we are moving too fast, but for me that beats not moving at all. We’ll take our lumps for the next 2-3 years, but we will see steady improvement. We have the recruiting advantage of being in Atlanta, and we are a solid academic institution. Now we just need to find a Hunter type coach. I wish that we would hold off on scheduling major programs until we are more competitive.

We got clobbered last night, but our guys are young and they will improve. Having said that, will we win a game this year?

The worst thing that can happen is for the alumni and students to turn on the team. Patience is required, and Atlantans aren’t known for patience. It makes no sense for alumni and students to not be supportive. Look how fast things are turning in basketball. It will happen with football.

catlady

August 31st, 2012
6:39 am

How foolish it is, in these economic times, to field a football team!

Big Green Tribe

August 31st, 2012
6:41 am

Moving “up” to the FBS is a joke and has been since those in charge made the inane decision to
become so-called “big time”.

This school won’t win one game in the strong FCS CAA this year…teams like James Madison, Delaware and WIlliam & Mary–schools that once in a while defeat FBS schools–will roll over the woeful Panthers—who are worse now than in their first season four years ago!

The “announced” crowd of 17000 was a joke, too. Perhaps 10,000 is the true figure. Why are they playing in the Dome? We’ll see crowds of 2000 or so for the remaining games…and no students.

Can they reapply to the CAA?

Jay from Loganville

August 31st, 2012
6:50 am

Always look for the bright side. Sun Belt fans never really had a reason to come to Atlanta. In 2014, those folks from Troy and Western Kentucky will come here to feel good about their teams – by way of pounding GSU – then spend their money in our restaurants, bars and strip clubs. Cha-Ching.

Ga State Man

August 31st, 2012
7:34 am

This may be unpopular but, if Morris Brown doesnt get out of their mess, Ga State should purchase their football stadium.

GaStBen

August 31st, 2012
7:45 am

Curry was a good person to get the program started and the fundraising, but his “legendary” 429% winning percentage speaks for itself. Nice guy, great fundraiser, awful coach. The next coaching hire is HUUUUUGEEE and better not come from the current staff.

I like Bill Curry, but...

August 31st, 2012
7:50 am

as I said in another spot…

the bottom line here is that Bill Curry and his staff have been continually out coached for two–and now two-plus–seasons. He’s a great guy. No one can dispute this, but seriously. Anyone who has watched this program should see that they simply don’t play good football. I can take a loss if the game is clean. If GSU doesn’t have the athletes to compete, well, we can change that in a class or two. This isn’t about athletes–although, I am sometimes shocked by their lack of skill on defense. This is about coaching. At this point, we should be playing SC State tough. Should we win? Maybe not, but this was disgraceful. Seriously. It’s not the kids faults, but these coaches are out to lunch.

Tim Justin

August 31st, 2012
7:50 am

Here we go again. Defensive Coordinator is horrible. Secondary looks confused. Spring starting Safety Stewart did not even see the field. 48 seconds before half and trying to throw down field. Should have taken a knee. Defense gave up atleast at total of 400 yards. University of Tennessee here comes GSU

Mark Richt

August 31st, 2012
8:26 am

GSU! We own this state! 10 and 1 in 2012! We will be better than Tech in no time…. in football and academically!

Sell the Team back to Ted or to Madeia

August 31st, 2012
8:26 am

@ Ga State Man…..brilliant, sir, brilliant. There is no reason fo the Panthers to play in a cavern of an empty dome……….a more cozy setting would enable them to get more of a home field advantage next year. BTW…….once Curry is gone, hire a decent coach and ur wins will grow. Curry is below average at best……and I’m a tech fan.

Sell the Team back to Ted or to Madeia

August 31st, 2012
8:26 am

@ Ga State Man…..brilliant, sir, brilliant. There is no reason fo the Panthers to play in a cavern of an empty dome……….a more cozy setting would enable them to get more of a home field advantage next year. BTW…….once Curry is gone, hire a decent coach and ur wins will grow. Curry is below average at best……and I’m a tech fan.

BDavis

August 31st, 2012
8:29 am

Can we please stop calling Ga State GSU? If im not mistaken, GSU is in stateboro and has been playing football for years.

I’ve clicked on several ‘GSU’ articles only to be sadly taken on ride to Ga State. Come up with a new abbreviation already and quit stealing my clicks!

fbrlz

August 31st, 2012
8:31 am

Could the real GSU hang 100 points Georgia State?

Liz

August 31st, 2012
8:32 am

Awh, Jeff…the title was pretty harsh dude …I’ll still say go Panthers! Hopefully GA Tech wins this weekend so I can at least feel slightly good about college football for this season….

straightshooter

August 31st, 2012
8:34 am

Maybe Georgia State can save some money by moving their games to the friendly confines of their new practice field. It would be a real home environment and there’s ample room for the fans that will now show up to watch them play.

Georgia State Panthers

August 31st, 2012
8:37 am

Win or lose, GSU has been in Atlanta since the 1960’s. Ga. Southern wasn’t even a university yet. And you mention stealing? Amazing!

Bobby

August 31st, 2012
8:42 am

Stop having the games on Thursday nights, with people working the next day attendance is going to be low. Have them on Saturday, and attendence will better.

WTFredi???

August 31st, 2012
8:45 am

ONLY 18,000 on a Thursday night? Hey, the Braves sometime don’t get that many for a weeknight game.

I think growing pains is an excuse for bad recruiting and coaching. GSU has advantages over most minor conference schools in that they play in Atlanta, which should be a selling point over close Sun Belt schools like Troy and Middle Tennessee. And this is year three, there should be some redshirt sophs and juniors at the top of the depth chart. Not knowing anything about SC State other than I think they are a pretty good HBCU team, I still would have expected GSU to give them a game, if not win.

GA State Grad

August 31st, 2012
8:45 am

As a recent graduate of Georgia State, I had my doubts about this program and unfortunately those doubts have proven to be true. I hope the best for them, but feel sorry for the students who saw their student fees increased 500% due to this program, especially since it’s not producing anything to be proud of.

Either way, I appreciate that Schultz continues to report on them and hope that one day this team will provide him with something positive to say!

More sad news for GSU

August 31st, 2012
8:47 am

The GSU that occupies a space in Atlanta was soundly defeated by South Carolina State — not a top-notch FCS school. Georgia State has to play in the CAA, which many would argue is currently the toughest conference in the FCS (others would say the toughest is the Southern Conference). Georgia State will finish this year with a worse record than it will next year in the Sun Belt. Moving up in the world to the FBS level is an impressive undertaking, but it is one that should be done when you have had at least a tiny bit of success at the lower level. I assure you the current members of the Sun Belt aren’t worried about Georgia State joining them in 2013. As for me, I’ll be in Paulson Stadium in Statesboro Saturday. By late Saturday night, at least we will have one GSU (Georgia Southern) in our beautiful Peach State that knows something about winning football games.

BettinMan

August 31st, 2012
8:48 am

Georgia state should shut this program down or play in a lower division—they will get pounded every week playing good teams.

DesignerJacket

August 31st, 2012
8:52 am

Yum, humble pie. Gastate can stop talking smack….right now even Shorter and West GA should be clamoring to schedule games with Gastate.

kevin Dyer

August 31st, 2012
8:55 am

I went last night. and also to the korky kell classic last weekend. The crowd at the Kell classic was double the crowd last night

Brian

August 31st, 2012
9:00 am

Jeff, you should have written about South Carolina State’s band. It is more interesting than Georgia State football.

MB

August 31st, 2012
9:02 am

Yeah—its Bill Curry’s fault ( 2 time SEC Coach of the Year, National Coach of the Year)…instead of the fault of a suitcase college that wants to pretend it has an actual sports program. Lots of talk from this group but the students who left in the third quarter; all had to figure out whose parents house they were going to stay or hurry back to the kids because they are 40. Maybe you should concentrate on having a great Business School and leave the sports to those who can.

GSUGRAD

August 31st, 2012
9:05 am

Did you really get our shat pushed in by some bottom dweller team last night? I couldn’t watch the game on AT&T uverse, well was watching USC/vandy and that was an interesting game

Anderson

August 31st, 2012
9:14 am

A good sobering post Jeff Schultz.

First,the game. The score should have been much closer than the final score. A sloppy effort by the GSU FB team. Missed field goals,dropped passes,mind-boggling play calls (a pass play with a RS freshman QB with seconds left in the half),and a (questionable) turnover. The WR was down when he was stripped and the ball was returned for a TD.

Nevertheless,it is time for HC Bill Curry to leave. The game has passed him by. I thank him for all that he has done for the FB program and university. A dynamic head coach is essential if/for this FB program to progress.

Anderson

August 31st, 2012
9:14 am

A good sobering post Jeff Schultz.

First,the game. The score should have been much closer than the final score. A sloppy effort by the GSU FB team. Missed field goals,dropped passes,mind-boggling play calls (a pass play with a RS freshman QB with seconds left in the half),and a (questionable) turnover. The WR was down when he was stripped and the ball was returned for a TD.

Nevertheless,it is time for HC Bill Curry to leave. The game has passed him by. I thank him for all that he has done for the FB program and university. A dynamic head coach is essential if/for this FB program to progress.

Bill

August 31st, 2012
9:17 am

“What does it say when a fan base is so quick to bolt?”
It says that when a game is not going well, there are other entertainment options right outside the door in downtown Atlanta. This is not the case in many stadium locations.

Hairy Dawg

August 31st, 2012
9:17 am

I don’t blame Georgia State for moving up. Gotta bring in that money. Besides, they’ll draw some kids to the school because they’ll be competing on the top rung of college football. Curry’s right about the situation. They’re just going to have to take their lumps until they can compete. The right coach could make it an easier transition.

Go Panthers!!

August 31st, 2012
9:19 am

What’s not being discussed, and should be cause for concern, is that the opening game crowds are shrinking rapidly. Given the trend over the last two seasons, we’ll be lucky to draw 10,000 by the end of the season.

Some want to blame the administration. These people are blind.

Atlanta supports winners. Why 18,000 last night? Well, for a number of reasons, but going 3-8 last year certainly hurts the most.

We have a similar season again (which is looking highly likely) and…well, I don’t even want to think about it.

Blazerdawg

August 31st, 2012
9:26 am

18,000 is typical for a SBC game – not a bad turnout at all – more concerned about the result on the field. That GSU bunch is kind of cynical by nature and they need to see some Ws or else the program will be established permanently as a loser.

Hurt Park

August 31st, 2012
9:50 am

Hate to say it,
but Georgia State needs to bite their tongue,
scrape up some big money and hire Bobby Petrino.

The Truth

August 31st, 2012
10:09 am

Georgia State will never be relevant in the college football world. I will be shocked if they even have a team in 5 years. They can’t recruit because their campus is awful and their on-campus facilities are non-existent. Give it up Pansy Panthers!