Georgia State takes good feelings into off-week

Georgia State quarterback Darren Grainger (3) is all smiles after leading the Panthers to victory over Charlotte with a final score of 20-9 Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021 at Center Parc Stadium in Atlanta. (Daniel Varnado/For the AJC)
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Georgia State quarterback Darren Grainger (3) is all smiles after leading the Panthers to victory over Charlotte with a final score of 20-9 Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021 at Center Parc Stadium in Atlanta. (Daniel Varnado/For the AJC)

Credit: Daniel Varnado

Credit: Daniel Varnado

Even though Georgia State doesn’t play this weekend, the Panthers were still able to enjoy what they call “Victory Monday.”

That means no practice and an opportunity to bask a bit longer in the afterglow of Saturday’s 55-21 win over Louisiana-Monroe. This week, coach Shawn Elliott even brought in a guest speaker from Merrill Lynch to talk about finances, credit and investments. “The things we take for granted a lot of times,” Elliott said.

They could have hosted a mathematician to come in and talk about some the records that were set Saturday. The 55 points tied the school record and are the most scored since the Panthers have been an FBS program. The 34-point margin of victory tied a school record, and the Panthers set a single-game record for touchdowns (eight) and tied the school record with 39 first downs.

Despite the euphoria after the big victory, Elliott knows the improvement must continue if the Panthers want to keep their dream alive of making it to a bowl game for the third consecutive season.

“There’s no particular need,” Elliott said. “We’ve got to be better in our special teams and certainly improve in other phases. But we’re just now getting to being who we want to be. I think this past weekend was pretty evident, what we want to do, running the ball and playing well defensively, creating turnovers.”

Darren Grainger won the quarterback battle a week ago and responded by accounting for five touchdowns – four passing, one running – to tie the school record against Louisiana-Monroe. He completed seven passes to Ja’cyais Credle, whose presence has helped elevate the team’s already deep group of receivers. He also was able to bring tight end Aubry Payne back into the game plan; the reliable target caught a career-high five passes and scored twice.

The turnovers have not come with the same frequency as they did last year. Antavious Lane picked up his fifth career interception last week, but that was the team’s first pick of the season. Through six games, the Panthers have recovered five fumbles and have 10 sacks. A year ago, they intercepted 12 passes, forced 11 fumbles and recovered nine and had a school-record 35 sacks.

“This is what we want to do, playing well defensively and creating turnovers,” Elliott said. “This is one of the things we talked about last week … just creating great energy off those types of situations. We’re going to work on everything like we typically do, but there’s no one particular area that we’re going to spend a lot more time on … just continuing to build on what we do.”

Elliott isn’t quite ready to equate Georgia State’s current position to last year, when the Panthers had a big win over Louisiana-Monroe and used that spark to win four of its last five games. That may because of an impending three-week stretch of road trips that include games at rival Georgia Southern, Western Division leader Louisiana-Lafayette and No. 15-ranked Coastal Carolina.

“We have to put together a couple more games before you can say we caught fire,” Elliott said. “We did play pretty good last weekend, but we’ve got to get another game under our belt. We’ve got to continue to work on some of the things that have plagued us the past several weekends, but anytime you can play four consecutive quarters of good football, you do feel pretty good about it.

“We have the ability to make a run, but we have to play smart football and continuously build on the momentum.”

Georgia State (2-4, 1-1 Sun Belt) returns from its off week to host Texas State (2-3, 1-0) on Oct. 21.

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