ATLANTA – Georgia State's football team used a record-setting offensive performance to earn a 52-38 win over Arkansas State on homecoming Saturday at Georgia State Stadium.
Georgia State (3-2, 1-1 Sun Belt) scored the first 21 points of the game, but it wasn’t until a 2-yard Destin Coates touchdown with 2:05 to play that the homecoming crowd could feel comfortable. Arkansas State fell to 3-3 and 1-1 in Sun Belt Conference play.
Senior quarterback Dan Ellington, who was celebrating his 22nd birthday Saturday, finished with a career-high 382 yards passing on 29-of-41 attempts. He added 69 yards on 19 rushing attempts for the Panthers, who scored the most points in program history against an FBS opponent. Ellington had one TD pass and one rushing score.
Georgia State rushed for a school-record 340 yards along with a school-record six rushing touchdowns, while combining for 722 total yards, which is also a school record. The Panthers tied the Sun Belt Conference record with 39 first downs.
“What a display from us offensively tonight,” head coach Shawn Elliott said after the Panthers defeated Arkansas State for the first time. “For the offense to go out and do what they did, both running the football and throwing the football, as really impressive. What a phenomenal win on homecoming.”
Sophomore receiver Sam Pinckney finished with a career-high 120 yards receiving on nine catches, including a touchdown catch, while Cornelius McCoy added eight catches for 107 yards as Georgia State had two 100-yard receivers for the first time since 2016.
The running back trio of Tra Barnett, Seth Paige and Destin Coates combined for 273 yards and five rushing touchdowns. Barnett went for 139 yards on 14 carries and a touchdown, Coates scored three touchdowns to go along with 66 yards on 15 carries. Paige added 68 yards and a touchdown.
Barnett had perhaps the key play of the game with his 56-yard run in the fourth quarter. Arkansas State pulled within 45-38 on a field goal with 4:27 still to play, Barnett started the Panthers ensuing possession with a 14-yard gain and then raced 56 yards down to the 2-yard line. Two plays later, Coates punched it in to give GSU a 52-38 lead with two minutes left and effectively seal the win.
“There’s such balance in the offense whether it be running the football or throwing the football, it’s just great balance,” Elliott said. “But you see it every day in practice. These guys come out every day to practice and really enjoy practice. They really have fun in practice. And our backs are so unselfish.”
Georgia State jumped to a 21-0 lead midway through the second quarter as Ellington directed scoring drives of 75, 89 and 80 yards, each capped by a rushing touchdown by a different Panther running back.
Tra Barnett started the scoring with a 3-yard scoring run, followed by Destin Coates’ 27-yard touchdown and Seth Paige’s 7-yard score.
After a slow start, Arkansas State responded with a pair of quick touchdowns, sandwiched around Brandon Wright’s 43-yard field goal, making the score 24-14 with just under five minutes remaining in the half.
From there, the teams exchanged touchdowns just before the half. Ellington drove the Panthers 75 yards for their fourth touchdown of the half, finding Pinckney in the corner of the end zone for an 11-yard scoring pass and a 31-14 lead with 1:39 to play in the half.
But the Red Wolves finished the half with Omar Bayless’ 31-yard touchdown catch from Layne Hatcher, and the Panthers took a 31-21 lead into the locker room.
The offensive firepower continued in the second half for both teams.
Bayless’ third touchdown catch of the game pulled the Red Wolves within 38-35 with 10 minutes to play, but Ellington and the Panthers responded with a 75-yard touchdown drive, capped by a 1-yard run by Coates, to reestablish a 10-point advantage with 6:30 left.
Bayless finished 154 yards on eight catches and three touchdown catches. Quarterback Layne Hatcher went 21-of-32 in the air for 299 yards and four touchdown passes.