The last three weeks have seen Georgia Southern face three of the most prolific passing attacks in the Sun Belt Conference.
The Eagles (6-5, 4-3) will face another excellent quarterback this week in Georgia State’s Dan Ellington when the two teams square off at 6 p.m. Saturday at Paulson Stadium.
Ellington is second in the Sun Belt in touchdown passes with 21, third in total offense and is completing 64.9 per cent of his passes. He is 196 of 302 for 2,109 yards with seven interceptions.
He will be playing his third game with a torn ACL suffered in the Panthers’ 52-33 win over Troy. Ellington came back to play the following week in a loss to Appalachian State and last week directed a 28-15 win over South Alabama.
“Going into the Appalachian State game it was an unknown,” Coach Shawn Elliott said. “He was a lot more cautious not knowing how the knee would respond.
“He was just a lot more comfortable this past week (against South Alabama) than he was against Appalachian State and rightfully so,” Elliott said. “The comfortable nature of him in the pocket last week was very, very evident.”
The Panthers (7-4, 4-3) jumped out to a quick 21-7 lead on the Mountaineers before eventually losing, 56-27.
Ellington is a senior in his second year at Georgia State after playing at Itawamba Community College in Itawamba, Miss. He is from Olive Hill, Miss.
“The recruitment of him didn’t last long,” Elliott recalled. “It was about three weeks. We got him signed early.
“What a player and person he has turned out to be for our program. He’s given us everything he’s got.”
Cornelius McCoy (58 catches) and Sam Pinckney (36) give the Panthers a solid pair of receivers and tight end Aubry Payne has six touchdowns in nine games.
The Panthers are not all Ellington as they will provide a strong test for the Eagles defense.
While Ellington has been a difference maker the Panthers also feature the leading rusher in the conference in running back Tra Barnett who has 1,336 yards and 11 touchdowns.
That is good enough to place Barnett sixth among FBS leaders. It is a school record for a single season as is his 2,039 career yards which has produced a school record 18 touchdowns rushing.
Georgia State has taken a page out of Georgia Southern’s playbook in establishing a solid running game. Its 257.9 yards per game is 11th best in FBS which makes it more difficult for a defense to zero in on stopping the pass.
Elliott, who has a 16-19 record in his third season, has seen his team rush for 340 or more yards in four of its last seven games including a school record 414 against Louisiana-Monroe.
The Panthers racked up 390 against Troy, 350 against Coastal Carolina and in a 52-38 win over Arkansas State had a school record 722 yards total offense that included 340 on the ground.
While Georgia State has impressive wins over Tennessee, Army, Troy and Arkansas State in becoming bowl eligible for the third time in the last five years it also has inexplicably ugly losses to Texas State, Western Michigan and ULM.