Georgia State scored 18 straight points in the second and third quarters to take a 28-21 lead on North Carolina, but the Tar Heels managed a 35-28 victory Saturday at Center Parc Stadium.
With GSU hosting a Power 5 opponent for the first time, sophomore wide receiver Robert Lewis caught two touchdowns for the Panthers (0-2) and recorded career highs with 10 receptions for 115 yards, while Jacorey Crawford and Jontrey Hunter led a GSU defense that forced three turnovers.
“I never, ever question what we do as a football team does as far as effort,” head coach Shawn Elliott said. “Some of our execution could have been better, but man, what a team that we have. The way we played against the University of South Carolina and the University of North Carolina, we’re going to hold our heads high and come back next week as a better football team.
“We had the opportunity to take that game, but we didn’t make the plays that we needed to. Some critical plays, both offensively and defensively and on special teams. It was certainly a team loss. We made plays, but didn’t make enough of those plays.”
Trailing 21-3, Georgia State got in the end zone with five minutes left in the first half as Darren Grainger found Kris Byrd for a 6-yard scoring pass and the first career touchdown for the sophomore tight end to pull within 21-10 at the half.The Panthers took the opening kickoff of the second half and drove 75 yards, capped by Grainger’s 49-yard touchdown pass to Lewis, bringing GSU within 21-17.
On the next play, Crawford intercepted UNC (3-0) quarterback Drake Maye at the GSU 43, setting up Michael Hayes’ 45-yard field goal, and the Panthers were within 21-20 with 10 minutes to play in the third quarter.
Crawford came up with another turnover on the Tar Heels’ next possession, recovering a fumble at the GSU 26, but the Panthers could not convert. However, the GSU defense got a third-down sack from Javon Denis for a three-and-out.
After the punt, Georgia State was pinned at the 2-yard line, but the Panthers drove 98 yards on 10 plays, capped by Grainger’s 29-yard TD to Lewis. Grainger then hit Jamari Thrash for the 2-point conversion, and Georgia State led 28-21 with two minutes left in the third quarter.
Lewis, the sophomore from Covington, Ga., has now caught four touchdown passes in the last three games.
But UNC managed back-to-back touchdowns, regaining the lead on Omarion Hampton’s 2-yard run with 10:42 to play.
Georgia State put up 421 yards of offense with 235 yards rushing and 186 yards passing. Grainger finished 16-for-24 with three touchdowns and rushed for 75 yards. Tucker Gregg led the Panthers with 79 yards on the ground.
Georgia State continues its three-game homestand by hosting Charlotte next Saturday at 7 p.m. at Center Parc Stadium.