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FCS Football: Georgia State vs. Campbell

Last Saturday, the Georgia State Panthers took the number 4 ranked FCS team, Jacksonville State, to the limit.  After losing to Lambuth on the previous Saturday, expectations were low for the GSU/JSU match-up, but the Panthers were able to hang with the Gamecocks and forced the game into overtime.  Jacksonville State took a 34-27 lead after scoring a touchdown on their first OT possession and Georgia State drove all the way to the two-yard line, but were not able to cross the goal line.  Having placed the blame of the Lambuth loss on the youth of the Panthers players combined with the team buying into its own inaugural-game hype, I was glad to see the Panthers perform well in their first true test.  The dramatic game was played in front of 16,128 fans (bringing the team's slightly skewed average attendance to 19,671) and televised on CSS. 

With that game behind them, the Panthers take their FIRST road trip (well, more of a planes, trains and automobiles-type combo trip), as they travel to the home of the Campbell Camels - Buies Creek, N.C.  The two teams will square off this Saturday at 1 p.m. in Barker-Lane Stadium (capacity = 5,000).  While the game won't be televised, it will, as always, be broadcast on FM 88.5 and AM 1160. 

So who are the Fighting Camels?  Well ... Campbell University is a Baptist university with an enrollment of around 6,800 students.  Campbell plays football at the FCS level and its team held its inaugural season in 2008 (1-10).  In their 2009 season, the team went 3-8.  The Camels are a part of the Pioneer Football League... conference (FCS conferences should do a better job of coming up with names that end in the word Conference), their mascot is named "Gaylord the Camel," (really) and they do not award scholarships to football players. 

This season the Camels are 1-2, including a loss to Georgia State's future Colonial Athletic Association conference-mate, Old Dominion.  At Coach Bill Curry's weekly press conference, he had this to say about the Camels:     

Campbell's team is going to be a formidable challenge for us. They return every single starter and led their league in rushing last year. The quarterback is good. They have multiplicity on offense where they will line up in many different formations and are good at all of them. They have had trouble stopping people in the red zone but are eight-for-eight on scoring opportunities in the red zone, and seven of those have been touchdowns. That means they are smart when they get down there.

It sounds like both teams will effectively move the goal line to the 20-yard line for this game.  Curry also noted that the Panthers defense needs to step up this week, specifically stating:

[W]e need to tackle better. Our opponents have fumbled the ball nine times and we only have recovered two of them. We want to create more turnovers, we want to tackle a lot better and we must get our running game more consistent.

Last week, quarterback Drew Little went 25 of 38 for 227 yards.  In total, the Panthers ran the ball 22 times for 135 yards, but if you take out the two 40+ yard breakaways, the other 20 carries only gained 48 yards.  Curry alluded to the fact that the offense needs to work to avoid becoming one-dimensional: 

We have those weapons, but we have to get our base running game going and haven't been able to do that consistently for a whole game. You need those runs where you get four, five and six yards every time.

As Ken Sugiura notes, Georgia State received its FIRST votes in any football polls.  The Panthers tallied three votes in the FCS Coaches Poll and stole one vote in the Sports Network FCS Poll.  Coach Curry responded to these votes, stating:

That was mindboggling to me. I saw that and thought maybe it was a joke - when you've played three football games in your life and you've won one of them. Having said that, I would be thrilled to be ranked in the polls at the end of the year if we earn it by winning football games.

On a final note, Drew Little's performance against Jacksonville State appears to have quieted all of the Star Jackson supporters, at least for the moment; I have not heard Star's name mentioned at all this week.  We'll see if Little can string together two solid games in a row and further solidify his starting position. 

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.