Georgia State Pounds Shorter
Prior to its contest with Georgia State University, Shorter University head football coach Phil Jones stressed to his team the importance of taking advantage of its opportunities.
Georgia State must have taken notes on Jones’ advice.
The Panthers used momentum from a wealth of Shorter penalties and a costly second half fumble by the Hawks to post a 41-7 victory over their guests in GSU’s first-ever football game in front of 30,237 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Thursday night.
`We need to be more disciplined,` said Jones, whose team was penalized nine times for 115 yards against the Panthers. “We have to make sure that we don’t have the dumb penalties that we had tonight. I think the excitement of playing in the Dome was part of it and a lot of them were effort penalties – but you have to control all of that.”
The Hawks drop to 0-2 for just the second time in their six-year football history – the other occasion came in Shorter’s inaugural season in 2005 and included a game that was eventually awarded to Shorter due to a forfeit.
Thursday night’s performance was marred by a series of untimely penalties, a trend that began on the opening drive of the game when an illegal participation penalty on a fourth down punt gave the Panthers new life and eventually led to the first touchdown in their program’s history, a 4-yard scamper by redshirt freshman Parris Lee that put the hosts up 7-0.
Seeking an answer, Shorter drove to the Georgia State 29-yard line two drives later, but suffered back-to-back 15-yard infractions – a chop block and a personal foul on consecutive plays – that killed the drive, and the Panthers responded on their ensuing possession with the first of two field goals from Iain Vance for a 10-0 lead with 8:58 remaining in the half.
The Hawks turned the ball over just once, but it proved costly.
Octavious Edge was stripped of the football by Christo Bilukidi and Olufemi Opanubi recovered at the Hawks’ 30. Five plays later, Panthers’ quarterback Drew Little hit tight end Emmanuel Ogbuehi for a four-yard score and a 17-0 Georgia State lead with 5:48 left in the opening half.
The Panthers led 20-0 at the break after Vance drilled an 18-yard field goal with 16 seconds left.
Georgia State (1-0), which announced the beginning of its program in April 2008, greeted its anxious fans with a strong debut performance, outgaining Shorter 366-263 and finishing without a turnover.
Little, who started for a suspended Star Jackson, finished 13 of 17 for 135 and a pair of TDs. His final strike was a 16-yard TD toss to Jordan Giles that put the Panthers ahead 34-7 with 5:35 remaining in the game.
Lee had a phenomenal first game for Georgia State, carrying eight times for 62 yards and a pair of touchdowns. His 10-yard touchdown run in the third gave the Panthers a 27-0 advantage.
The Shorter offense, however, also played well under the Georgia Dome spotlight.
Senior quarterback Ben Williams, who recorded just five yards rushing in the Hawks’ opener last Saturday at West Alabama, rushed 26 times for 94 yards, a performance that included a one-yard scoring plunge with 8:14 left in the game that drew the Hawks to within 27-7.
The Marietta, Ga., native also completed 5 of 11 passes for 57 yards and completed a pass to five different receivers.
Octavious Edge tallied 42 yards on 11 carries and freshman Kenny Foster was effective on his nine totes, picking up 38 yards.
Shorter picked up 14 first downs – it managed just four at West Alabama – and picked up 206 yards on the ground against a bigger and more athletic Georgia State defense. The Hawks’ fourth quarter scoring drive was vintage Shorter, covering 80 yards in 17 plays and taking 8:58 off the clock.
The Hawks ended the game with an advantage in time of possession, keeping the ball for 32:29 – five minutes longer than the Panthers.
`We moved the ball better, there is no question,” said Jones, whose teams have led the NAIA in rushing in each of the last two seasons. “We stayed on blocks a little better and executed a little better, but obviously we struggled with penalties.”
After surrendering 596 yards of offense to West Alabama, the Hawks’ defense was much more solid against Georgia State, but again struggled to seal the deal on third downs.
The Panthers were 6 for 10 in third down conversions. Their first touchdown drive was kept afloat by a third and 12 conversion and Vance’s first field goal was made possible by a 19-yard completion from Little to Sidney Haynes on a third and 19 from the Shorter 25.
Collyn Copeland paced the Shorter defense with nine tackles.
Shorter has bounced back from tough defeats at the beginning of a season before.
In 2008, the Hawks dropped a 35-0 decision to NCAA Division I Western Carolina in its season opener, but went on to win the program’s first Mid-South Conference West Division title.
`If you have the right attitude after these types of games, you can look at the tape and learn a whole lot,” Jones said. “In 2008 we came back and won the conference because we took the film and saw what we needed to do in a hurry.”
Shorter opened the season with games against two NCAA schools for the first time ever, and despite the end result of each contest, Jones saw plenty to assure him that the best is still to come for his Hawks.
`We played hard, we played our hearts out and our kids normally do that,” Jones said. “I am proud of them for that. We just have to find a way to keep getting better.
`To see our kids play hard for four quarters is going to make a difference when we get to conference play.”