Panthers head coach Shawn Elliott is all smiles and excitement after the Panthers are bowl eligible for the third time in school history with their 52-33 victory over Troy. Elliott told his team, “If you want respect, you have to go get it.” So far, the Panthers are earning a lot of respect from their opponents and the Sun Belt.

The great play of the offensive line and specifically running back Tra Barnett one of many reasons why the Panthers are bowl eligible and have a chance at winning the Sun Belt title. The rain was off and on throughout the game but both teams did not let the weather dictate their ball control.

Early on, it was all Panthers. Panthers quarterback Dan Ellington capped off the opening drive of the game with a 19 yard rushing touchdown to lead 7-0. The Trojans tied the game in the second quarter as running back DK Billingsley ran 10 yards up the middle on a halfback draw with 12:19 left in the quarter.

All season long, Ellington and the offense has had an answer all season long and tonight proved no different. This time, Ellington pass to tight end Aubry Payne went 40 yards as Payne walked in for a touchdown to regain their lead.

The Panthers ensuing offensive possession gave them much momentum and confidence. This time running back Seth Paige broke loose for a 65 yard run resulting in another touchdown to lead 21-7.

As the game seemed to be getting out of striking distance for the Trojans, wide receiver Tray Eafford was on the receiving end of quarterback Kaleb Barker pass. Eafford went 64 yards down to the Panthers two, setting up first and goal.

Billingsley rushed in from two yards on second and goal to cut the Panthers lead to seven.

The Panthers answered again on their ensuing drive. This time, running back Tra Barnett five yard rushing touchdown gave them a 28-14 lead as they headed into halftime.

Georgia State built their lead on their first possession in the third quarter. This time, Ellington punched it in from the goal line to increase the Panthers lead to 21. That would be the only score of the third quarter as the Panthers lead 35-14.

Although the Panthers had much momentum and confidence, the Trojans did not quit and let the momentum stop them. Barker completed a 98 yard drive as he found Trojans wide receiver A.J. Lewis for a 23 yard touchdown pass to cut the lead to 14. Ellington and the Panthers were unable to convert on third and goal on the Trojans 12 and settled for a field goal to lead by 17.

The Trojans only need eight plays before scoring again. This time Billingsley powered into the endzone from the goal line to cut the lead to 11. Nine minutes remained in the game and Ellington was determined to keep the Panthers ahead and find the endzone again on their ensuing possession.

Ellington was successful, this time finding receiver Roger Carter for a four yard touchdown pass to lead 45-27. Four plays is all it took for the Trojans to get back on the board again for seven. This time Barker completed a seven yard touchdown pass to receiver Khalil McClain, cutting the Panthers lead to 12.

As 2:47 remained in regulation, the Panthers needed a first down to ice the game while the Trojans had one timeout remaining.

Fourth and one on the Trojans 41 would determine if the Trojans could make a possible comeback. Instead, Barnett killed the hopes of the Trojan faithful, breaking loose for a 41 yard run to add to his big night of 242 yards on 34 carries. This made the score 52-33 as the Panthers celebrated being bowl eligible and a big night for Barnett.

“The biggest goal is that we are trying to win the Sun-Belt,” said Barnett. We got a lot of talent on the team offensively and defensively and we’re trying to aim big and get this Sun Belt championship.”

Being bowl eligible has everybody excited but for Elliott and players, it is not the end and they want more.

“To tell you the truth, I don’t even want to think about bowl eligible as a football team,” Elliott said. “We have a chance to go fight for this [Sun Belt] Championship.”

“The bowl game wasn’t our goal,” said Ellington. “The Sun Belt Championship is our goal.”

Barnett sets the school’s season and career rushing record with his performance tonight but credits his offensive line for his performance.

“My O-line was doing a great job and I was trusting them,” said Barnett. “They were telling me to follow off my yoke and I was trusting what I see.”

Ellington finished this game 18-25, 189 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

The Panthers have a bye week on Nov. 2 before heading to Monroe, Louisiana to face the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks on November 9.

Tra Barnett rushed for a school-record 242 yards and two touchdowns against the Trojans. In doing so, he became Georgia State’s career rushing leader with 1,631 yards, passing Travis Evans (1,500, 2010-13), and he took sole possession of the GSU career record with 15 career rushing touchdowns. Photo by: Anfernee Patterson/The Atlanta Voice

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