Georgia State quarterback Dante Ellington drove the Panthers on a game-winning 73-yard drive for a touchdown throw to Diondre Champaigne, sealing a 24-20 victory over the Kennesaw State Owls in a thrilling game at Georgia State Stadium.
Coming into the game, the Owls and their triple-option offense are part of the Big South Conference in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) and they were not afraid of Georgia State, jumping out to a 14-0 lead with 9:11 left in the 2nd quarter.
Things were not looking well for the Panthers early on as the Owls marched into the end zone on their opening drive. Shaquil Terry rushed into the end zone from the five-yard line to give the Owls their first points of the game.
In the second quarter, Chandler Burks would find Justin Sumpter for a 23-yard touchdown reception to put the Owls up 14-0.
Georgia State fans have been here before: high hopes for their team’s season only to have somebody come to crush their dreams on opening night.
Tonight’s game appeared to have the same personality as last year’s loss to Tennessee State University and all was going to go down from there.
Coming into tonight’s matchup, the Panthers, are 1-3 in their last four season openers. Georgia State’s expectations are high as Head Coach Shawn Elliott seeks to improve from a 6-6 season last year.
As more than 23,000 fans looked on, Ellington would not let last year’s loss adversely affect the Panthers’ resolve. With less than five minutes remaining, the Panthers were looking for a spark on offense and Ellington would rush for 19 yards putting the Panthers into the Owl’s territory.
“After I broke that run, I felt my confidence and knew I was ready,” said Ellington when asked about what got his confidence and offense going.
Ellington would eventually find Penny Hart from 3 yards, putting the Panthers on the board for the first time this evening.
On the Owls ensuing offensive possession, defensive back DeAndre Applin would intercept Chandler Burks pass putting the ball on the Owls 37. Five plays later, Ellington would answer again, finding Christian Owens to tie the game at 14 with three seconds left in the first half.
In the third quarter, the Owls option offense gave the Panthers trouble. Their ball-control offense consumed most of the clock, thereby shortening the game and limiting the Panthers’ possession. The Owls ran the ball 19 times for 70 yards. Kennesaw State had the ball for 11:41 compared to Georgia State’s 3:19
The fourth quarter saw the Panthers make their move. Kicker Brandon Wright converted a 35-yard field goal, making the score 20-17 with 10:35 left in the game.
With less than three minutes remaining, the Panthers would have to put together a game-winning drive to win. The Panthers would fail, giving Kennesaw the ball back in Panthers territory.
Kennesaw State’s effort to ice the game failed and the Panthers would get the ball back after the Owls failed to convert a 4th and 9, coming up one-half yard short. Ellington seized the golden opportunity lead the offense downfield.
Nine plays later, Ellington threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Diondre Champaigne, giving Georgia State a 24-20 lead with 41 seconds remaining in the game.
Ellington completed 20-28 for 187 yards with three touchdowns. In addition, Ellington ran for 103 yards on 18 carries. Owens would finish with six receptions for 70 yards and a touchdown.
The Panthers will go on the road to face North Carolina State in Raleigh September 8. Their next home game will be September 22nd against Western Michigan.