COLUMBIA – Georgia State fell in its season opener at South Carolina, 35-14, Saturday night at Williams-Brice Stadium.
GSU (0-1) rushed for 200 yards, including 76 yards by Jamyest Williams, and cornerback Quavian White led the defense with two interceptions, but the Panthers hurt themselves with special teams miscues, including two blocked punts returned for touchdowns.
“I thought offensively and defensively, we went toe to toe with them, but we can’t have those special teams mistakes. It’s unacceptable,” said head coach Shawn Elliott, who grew up near Columbia and spent seven seasons as assistant coach at South Carolina, serving as the interim head coach in 2015 following Steve Spurrier’s retirement.
“We went out there and moved the ball, and we made plays defensively. I thought our guys busted their tails and fought hard, like I knew we would.”
Trailing just 12-7 at the half, White, the Greer, S.C., native, intercepted South Carolina quarterback Spencer Rattler on the second play of the third quarter to give the Panthers possession at the USC 32.
Running back Jamyest Williams, who transferred from South Carolina, gained 20 yards on a short pass to the 12. Quarterback Darren Grainger converted on third down with a 7-yard run to the 2-yard line and scored two plays later on a 4-yard run around the right side to give Georgia State a 14-12 lead with 11:43 remaining in the third quarter.
South Carolina answered with a touchdown to regain the lead at 20-14 with seven minutes to play in the third quarter before the two blocked punts led to the final margin.
White intercepted Rattler again late in the third quarter, giving him nine career interceptions to equal teammate Antavious Lane for the GSU career lead.
Down 9-0, Georgia State got on the board late in the second quarter with a 6-play, 75-yard drive on which Grainger had two huge completions. He opened the march by finding Jamari Thrash down the right sideline for 28 yards, and he capped the drive with a 17-yard touchdown strike over the middle to Robert Lewis to pull GSU within 9-7.
South Carolina managed a late field goal to take a 12-7 lead into the locker room.
“We have a talented football team, we have a hard-working football team, we have a gutsy football team, and I think we’re going to grow,” Elliott said. “We’ve got to go regroup. We’ll make some changes and get some things corrected; we’ve got to do some better coaching and some better playing, but we’ll be back.”
Georgia State’s home opener is next Saturday as the Panthers host North Carolina at 12 noon at Center Parc Stadium on ESPNU.