Georgia State will remain winless on the season after falling to the Richmond Spiders 35-14 at home in the Georgia Dome. The game was Georgia State’s first conference game as a member of the Colonial Athletic Association, which the team will be members of for just one season since they will join the Sun Belt Conference in July 2013.
The Spiders wasted no time in welcoming the Panthers for their short stay as they jumped out to a 21-0 lead. After Richmond’s opening drive resulted in a punt, the Spiders would have consecutive scoring drives of 13 and 14 plays respectively as the Panther defense was on the field for 31 of the game’s first 39 plays. That amount of work gassed the Panther defense early and left the Panthers in a 21-0 deficit just six minutes to play before halftime.
Georgia State received a short boost in momentum starting with their next drive as Donald Russell broke off a 52 yard run to take the ball into Spider territory. A pass interference penalty would give GSU a first down in the red zone and the Panthers were able to convert with a 13 yard touchdown pass from Ben McLane to Albert Wilson to make the score 21-7.
The Panther defense seized on the momentum from the offense and forced a quick three and out, leaving GSU 40 seconds to try to score and bring the game within a touchdown before halftime. However, McLane’s first pass would go straight off the hands of tight end Emmanuel Obeughi and straight into the hands of Richmond safety Cooper Taylor, an Atlanta area native.
The Spiders capitalized on the turnover and was able to score on a one yard run to take a 28-7 halftime lead. It appeared the Panthers had held on fourth down from the one as time expired, but an offside penalty would give the Spiders one untimed down in which they scored.
Georgia State was able to move the ball in spurts throughout the game, but continue to be hampered by inconsistency. Backup quarterback Ronnie Bell played the entire fourth quarter and was mildly effective aside from two interceptions on poorly thrown balls. Bell was 7 of 10 for 91 yards and a touchdown, while starter Ben McLane was 16 of 26 for 140 yards and a touchdown. McLane continues to deal with a left hand injury, but the decision to not play him in the fourth quarter was made because of performance and not health.
The Panthers were just 1 of 4 on fourth down attempts during the game. Two of the failed attempts were from less than two yards.
Donald Russell was the lone highlight for the Panthers as he rushed for 119 yards on 24 carries and also had 51 yards on 5 receptions. He would score his first touchdown of the season on a 1 yard carry with less than a minute to go in the game that would make the score 35-14. Georgia State would recover the onside kick, but on the ensuing possession Ronnie Bell threw on an interception to seal the deal.
The Spiders were not overly impressive on offense, but were efficient. They took advantage of a GSU secondary that continues to play a soft zone pass coverage despite giving up nearly 300 yards per game. Richmond seemed to run the same 8-12 yard out route over and over with continued success.
Georgia State also continues to struggle containing mobile quarterbacks as Richmond QB John Laub rushed for 72 yards and three touchdowns. Laub threw for 223 yards and a touchdown on 16 of 25 passing.
A continued problem for this defense is the lack of play making ability. The tackling has improved from a year ago, but is still not good enough. The secondary has taken a giant step back while the front seven looks to be much stronger. Panther defensive backs had their hands on three balls that could have all been interceptions, but were unable to reel them in.
One such play came when Georgia State was down 7-0 and the D’Mario Gunn undercut an out route and looked to have the endzone on his mind. Instead, he dropped the sure interception, and the Spiders would go on to score.
Those type of plays are why the Panthers have yet to be competitive in a game this season. The road will certainly not get any easier for them as they continue in CAA play.