RUNDOWN: GSU Still Looking For First Win

In the first-ever conference game for Georgia State football, the Panthers made some progress, but failed to overcome the problems that have led them to an 0-4 start and lost to the Richmond Spiders 35-14.

The biggest improvement for the Panthers came in the running game where Donald Russell got the ball 29 times on 24 rushes and five catches, both of which led the Panthers.  He ended up with a 5 yard per carry average and 51 yards of receiving for a total of 170 yards, the second time in his career at GSU that he has eclipsed the 100-yard mark.

"It was a Donald Russell day," Head Coach Bill Curry said. "You just see how valuable he is, you just have to keep giving it to him when he’s full speed.
The Panthers’ lone first-half score came from a solid drive that was ignited by a 52-yard run by Russell that matched his longest run at GSU.  That got the Panthers into Richmond territory and from there Russell later caught a 14-yard pass from Ben McLane and followed that with a five-yard run.  Quarterback Ben McLane then connected with Albert Wilson, who broke through one tackle and found the end zone to make it a 21-7 game.

"This process is very frustrating because we do so many things to hurt ourselves," said State coach Bill Curry. "If we simply play our very best all the time we should be a really good football team."

Late in the second quarter, the GSU defense forced a punt to give the Panthers the ball with 40 seconds left in the half.  However, from there the Panthers endured a sequence indicative of how their season has gone.  McLane was intercepted on a tipped ball, and then Richmond got a 32-yard completion to the GSU eight-yard line. The Panthers appeared to have prevented a touchdown by keeping the Spiders out of the endzone on four consecutive plays, but the stop on fourth-and-goal was erased when a GSU lineman lined-up offsides.  Richmond was able to punch it in on an extra down after time had expired putting the Spiders up 28-7.

"We had some work excellent goal line work but hurt ourselves again so there was all of that," Curry said. "We fought the daylights out of them...but after a valiant goal line stand we gave them five downs. But we’re going to keep pushing and working until we get everybody the same page. That’s what has to happen next. A lot of good thing are happening, but we got to have more."

The Panthers next scoring opportunity came late in the third quarter, but Matt Ehasz was sent in to kick a field goal instead of starting kicker Christian Benvenuto and sent the kick wide left.  The Panthers finally scored again late in that game after backup quarterback Ronnie Bell was sent in.  The Panthers drove 70 yards on eight plays and Russell capped the drive with a two-yard touchdown run with 43 seconds left in the game.

"This process is very frustrating because we do so many things to hurt ourselves," said State coach Bill Curry. "If we simply play our very best all the time we should be a really good football team."

Albert Wilson missed much of the first half with an apparent hip bruise, so instead of getting his CAA-leading 158.7 all-purpose yard average, he was limited to just 57 yards.  However, Wilson wasn't the only player injured for the Panthers.  Both starting center Michael Davis (ankle injury) and backup Ronald Martin (knees) left with injuries, forcing guard Tim Wynn to play center for much of the second half.

"There was some circumstances that were outside our control. We lost both our centers (and) Tim had to play center really without having done it in two years," Curry said.

The Panthers ended the game with 21 first downs, 159 yards rushing and 231 yards rushing, all of which were improvements over their performance against UTSA last week.  In addition, their 390 yards of total offense and 73 total offensive plays were top marks for the year.  However, defensive struggles continued as the Spiders were 4-of-4 with four touchdowns in the red zone, 7-of-14 on third down conversions and 1-of-1 on fourth down conversions.  In pass defense, the Panthers allowed the same 12.1 yards per completion that they did against UTSA, showing that progress in that area is hard to find.

"We were obviously better prepared for the speed of the game as the game wore on. In spite of that, we couldn't get sustained drives and kept putting the defense back out on the field. We still have to play sound football and can't just give the ball to the opponent over and over and expect the defense to hold up. We played extremely hard, but once again that was not enough", Curry said.

The Panthers will look to get their first win of the season in their first-ever CAA road game as they take on William & Mary this Saturday, September 29.

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