Aggies Not Overlooking Undermanned Georgia State In Potato Bowl

Dec 23, 2023, 8:47 AM | Updated: 8:49 am

BOISE, Idaho –ย Transfer-portal defections and a series of opt-outs have left Georgia State preparing for its first game west of the Mississippi since 2019 without several key contributors from a .500 regular season.

The Panthers (6-6, 3-5) enter the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl riding a five-game losing streak after opening the season 6-1. GSU received one vote in the USA Today Coaches Poll for the first time following a 4-0 start.

“Being able to be selected in this bowl game gave us some new juice,” Panthers QB Darren Grainger said on Friday afternoon.

RELATED: How To Watch USU Vs. Georgia State In FIPB

“We didn’t finish the season the way we wanted to,” senior linebacker Jordan Veneziale said. “I feel like this team’s energy has started to gain momentum. We’re all starting to dial in and lock in for that last game of the season.”

Georgia State enters the FIPB without its leading rusher (Marcus Carroll, portal), leading receiver (Robert Lewis, portal), and leading tackler (Jontrey Hunter, opt-out). GSU will also be short three starting offensive linemen Travis Glover (opt-out), Montavious Cunningham (portal), and Avery Reece (injury).

Asked about the short-handed Panthers, USU head coach Blake Anderson made it clear his team isn’t taking their opponent lightly.

“We’ll take any edge we can get. At the end of the day, you have to get out and make the plays. Maybe this bowl trip is just what they needed to get to get the spark going. We expect their very best.”

RELATED: USU Hopes Momentum Snowballs Into 2024 Success

Senior Aggie linebacker MJ Tafisi Jr. echoed his coach’s comments. “I’m not expecting anything different. They did have a few guys leave in the portal. Nothing different. I know that they’re going to try to do whatever they can to beat us, too.”

The Aggies and Panthers played two common opponents in 2023. GSU beat UConn 35-14 at home while USU survived in Storrs, needing an Ike Larsen blocked extra point to clinch a 34-33 win. Utah State lost 45-38 at home against James Madison with Georgia State getting blown out by the Dukes, 42-14.

Georgia State Panthers (6-6, 3-5 Sun Belt)

Led by seventh-year head coach Shawn Elliott, the Panthers look to overcome the loss of over 2,000 yards of offense and 20 TDs without Carroll and Lewis. They will have to do it with a left tackle making his second career start, a redshirt freshman center making his first career start, and a sophomore taking over at one of the guard positions.

It’s an unenviable position but not one that Elliott is shying away from.

“Some people think it’s a bowl game, we’re just going to a bowl game. These guys are fixing to step in, some of them their first start a, lot of them their first start. They are so fired up about it… I guarantee they’re going to make mistakes, but they’re going to play their butts off.”

RELATED: USUโ€™s Potato Bowl Depth Chart

The Panthers averaged 25.8 points while allowing 30.8 points per game this season. During its five-game losing streak, the defense gave up 41.8 points per game.

GSU QB Darren Grainger enters as the program leader in total offense and passing touchdowns while sitting second in passing yards and fourth in rushing yards. He will be making his 36th career start in the FIPB.

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USUย (6-6, 4-4) faces the Georgia State Panthers (6-6, 3-5) in theย Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Kickoff is at 1:30 p.m. (MT) on Saturday, December 23.

Find USU football onย KSL Sports Zoneย with the voices of Scott Garrard and former Aggie quarterback Kevin White (1988-89).

Find KSL Sports coverage of Utah State University Athletics here.ย 

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Aggies Not Overlooking Undermanned Georgia State In Potato Bowl