The Panthers of Georgia State University spent $300 million re-purposing Turner Field and launched a new era in athletics on 755 Hank Aaron Drive! However, on opening night, the Tennessee State Tigers arrived from Nashville with different plans on their minds.
The Panthers fell to the Tigers 17-10 in front of 24,333 at GSU Stadium. Former Florida Gators QB Treon Harris set the tone early for Big Blue as he helped TSU’s offense rack up 247 total yards compared to Georgia State’s 83 in the first half.
“We appreciate everyone who came out here tonight, and we appreciate all the effort that went into this,” Georgia State Head Coach Shawn Elliott said. “It was a great way to open this stadium except for the game itself. And that’s tough.
What kept the Panthers in the game was their defense. They stood their ground, only giving up 10 points from the four times TSU entered the red zone in the first half.
“You look at our defense, I thought they played their tails off,” Elliott continued. “They went out there and gave us the opportunity to compete, gave us the chance to tie the game. I thought they fought, but they stayed on the field a long, long time. And that’s something that is unacceptable for us, offensively. You look at our stats, I think we rushed for 38 yards today. 38 yards. That’s something that’s hard to do. And five turnovers.”
Tennessee State added to their lead after Harris led the Tigers on a 96 yard drive and capped it off with a 12 yard touchdown run, making it 17-3. On the ensuing drive, Georgia State’s starting QB Conner Manning took a big hit and was knocked out of the game. He was replaced by redshirt sophomore Aaron Winchester.
On the evening, TSU outgained GSU 383-273. Big Blue was plus four in the turnover category, had 21 first downs compated to the Panthers’ 14. The telling stat was the 238 rushing yards Tennessee State gained while possessing the ball for 35 minutes.
“First of all, this is a huge win,” TSU Tigers offensive tackle Christian Morris said. “We’re an FCS team, and we came out there and beat an FBS team. They were very talented, but we handled business.”
This was an upset on all accounts. Tennessee State is an HBCU currently playing in the Ohio Valley Conference (an FCS conference). Although TSU has put many players in the National Football League (most notably Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie of the New York Giants and Anthony Levine of the Baltimore Ravens), they have not won more than five games in the OVC since the 2013 season. Futhermore, TSU’s last three results versus FBS opponents are as follows:
2006 – Vanderbilt 38, Tennessee State 9
2011 – Air Force 63, Tennessee State 24
2016 – Vanderbilt 35, Tennessee State 17
“We’ll come back out and regroup,” Elliott said. “We’ve got an open date and 17 days to prepare, and we’ll go to work. One win or one loss does not make a season. It’s going to be a tough loss to swallow for the next 17 days. We’ve got to find out what we’re made of, and find out quickly.”