The roller coaster season continues. After dropping two straight games, the Panthers have turned around their recent form and won two straight, improving to 4-2 on the season and inching ever closer to a potential bowl birth.
After an explosive offensive output over the Arkansas State Wolves last week, the Panthers kept their momentum going when they defeated the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers 31-21.
Panthers quarterback Dan Ellington and the running back duo of Tra Barnett and Seth Paige were the stars in this game, as they combined to rush for a school-record 350 yards. Coming off their stellar victory over the Arkansas State Red Wolves, the match-up represented another critical Sun Belt Conference game on the road for Shawn Elliott’s men.
However, the Chanticleers were looking to avoid losing consecutive games and create a winning streak of their own at Brooks Stadium, a place where the team was undefeated entering Saturday’s game.
The opening possessions from both sides were understandably slow, as the feel out process began with two quick three-and-outs.
On Coastal Carolina’s second offensive possession, Panthers safety Remy Lazarus forced a fumble out of Chanticleers quarterback Fred Payton. Defensive end Terry Thomas recovered the fumble and helped give the offense great field position on the Chanticleers’ 44-yard line.
The Panthers took advantage of the turnover as Brandon Wright’s 38-yard field goal was good to take an early three point lead.
The Chanticleers responded on the ensuing possession by matching the Panthers with a field goal of their own. This time, Massimo Biscardi answered his opposite number with a 38-yard field goal of his own to tie the game at three.
The next Georgia State offensive possession resulted in a turnover as Ellington was intercepted by Chanticleers safety Alex Spillum. While the senior did not have his best day through the air, throwing for only 122 yards, his impact on the ground would soon put any worries to rest.
This resulted in another Chanticleers field goal by Biscardi, whose 21-yard chip shot snuck through the uprights. The Chanticleers, as a result, took a 6-3 into the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter was all Georgia State. Running back Seth Paige got things off to a flying start, as he broke loose for a 46-yard touchdown run to give the Panthers the lead at 10-6.
On the next Panthers possession, the offense went 70-yards in 15 plays, which Ellington polished off with a three-yard touchdown pass to Cornelius McCoy. The receiver finished his day with four catches for only 12 yards, but the all-important receiving touchdown.
As the half came to a close, Elliott’s men, who have struggled on the road this season, confidently strolled into the locker rooms with a 17-6 lead. The defense, arguably for the first time this season, was truly dominating.
Opening the second half, the Chanticleers responded quickly. This time, it was Chanticleers quarterback Bryce Carpenter that exerted his dominance, finding Jaivon Heiligh for a 20-yard touchdown pass to cut the Panthers’ lead to four.
The Panthers’ offense was having none of it, though, as they continued their explosive play into the third quarter. They quickly responded to the touchdown with one of their own, as running back Tra Barnett got his name on the score sheet with a 28-yard touchdown, putting the Panthers back in front 24-13. The senior recorded another 100-yard rushing performance, finishing Saturday’s contest with 110 yards.
On the ensuing Chanticleers possession, Elliott’s defense recorded a big three-and-out, and furthered the team’s momentum.
Tra Barnett finished off the following drive with a two-yard rushing touchdown to extend the lead to 31-13. The Panthers silenced the home crowd.
The strong third quarter performance proved to be the difference in the match-up, as the Chanticleers had a mountain to climb in quarter number four if they had any shot of a comeback.
A late fourth quarter score by Coastal Carolina made the score 31-21, but the clock struck zero and handed the Panthers a solid victory soon after.
The Panthers head home to host the Army Knights Saturday at 7 p.m.