Coming into the afternoon, many Georgia State Panthers fans, students and alumni wouldn’t have ever imagined the impossible. As Spock said on Star Trek, “Once you’ve ruled out the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be true.” The impossible is that the Panthers defeated the Tennessee Volunteers 38-30 at Neyland Stadium in one of the major upsets in college football this season.
Coming off a 2-10 season last year, the Panthers needed to do a lot of soul searching. The defense was among the last in the Sun Belt and they could not buy a win.
Meanwhile the Volunteers were seeking a better start to the season after finishing the 2018 season 5-7.
Today in , the Panthers put the doubters to shame as they handled the Volunteers defense.
Early on, the Panthers came out striking on all cylinders. On the Volunteers second play of the first quarter, defensive end Hardrick Willis forced a fumble against Volunteers running back Ty Chandler. Senior inside linebacker Ed Curney recovered the fumble, giving the Panthers the ball at the Volunteers 23.
The Volunteers responded on the ensuing drive though. Volunteers quarterback Jarrett Guarantano finished a 16 play, 78 yard drive by connecting with wide receiver Marquez Callaway for a six yard touchdown reception.
Both teams remained tied at seven,
The Panthers went three and out on the ensuing drive which gave the Volunteers a chance to get their first lead of the game.
They capitalized off of that as it only took five plays for Ty Chandler to break loose for 31 yard touchdown run to give the Volunteers a 14-7 lead with nine seconds to go in the first quarter.
As the Panthers opened the second quarter, the offense went three and out again, giving the Volunteers a chance to extend their lead.
It was third and one and the Volunteers looked to pound the ball to keep the drive going.
The Panthers defense rose to the occasion, stuffing Guarantano for no gain, forcing the Volunteers to go three and out.
That defensive stop turned out to be an important play in the game for the Panthers as it ignited the Panthers offense on the ensuing drive.
Ellington completed a 16 play, 81 yard drive by finding wide receiver Cornelious McCoy for a 17 yard touchdown reception. Both teams were tied at 14 with 3:11 to go in the third quarter.
As the second half came to a close, Volunteers kicker Brent Cimaglia converted on a 19 yard field goal to send the Volunteers into halftime up 17-14.
When the third quarter began, the Panthers offense remained confident and continued off their first half momentum.
It only took nine plays for the Panthers to find the endzone as Ellington connected with tight end Aubry Payne for a six yard touchdown pass. The Panthers regained the lead at 21-17 with 10:30 to go in the third quarter.
Guarantano and the Volunteers offense struggled to get anything going offensive and went three and out.
The Panthers also went three and out giving the Volunteers another chance for points.
This time, Cimaglia converted on a 48 yard field goal to close the Panthers lead to one.
The Panthers offense knew they needed another score as the offense marched downfield.
On third and six, Ellington was hit by Volunteer lineman Deandre Johnson, forcing a fumble which was recovered by lineman Batrell Johnson.
The Volunteers were unable to take full advantage on the ensuing drive but Comaglia converted on a 31 yard field goal to give the Volunteers the lead at 23-21.
Ellington and the Panthers offense did not let the mistake on the previous drive halt their momentum.
Ellington led the Panthers offense downfield giving the Panthers another chance to regain the lead.
This time, senior running back Tra Barnett punched it in from 55 yards to give the Panthers a five point lead making the score 28-23.
The Volunteers offense needed to get going but the Panthers defense were not letting it happen.
As Guarantano dropped back to pass on the drive, the Panthers defense hit him forcing a fumble recovery giving the Panthers great field position.
Ellington extended the lead on the ensuing drive, rushing in from 22 yards to give the Panthers a comfortable 35-23 lead with less than four minutes to go in regulation.
The Panthers defense proved to be too much for the Volunteers in the game as inside linebacker Trajan Stephens-McQueen picked off Guarantano to seal the victory.
A late 48 yard field goal by Panthers kicker Brandon Wright and late score by Tennessee gave the Panthers the 38-30 victory.
“We believed,” said Panthers head coach Shawn Elliott when asked how they pulled off the upset the Volunteers. “Ultimately they worked so hard to do the necessary to even go and compete.”
“Our guys had confidence,” said Elliott when asked about the defense’s stellar performance.