Red Wolves close road slate at Georgia State

Arkansas State running back Johnnie Lang Jr. collides with Appalachian State safety Ronald Clarke during a game this month at Centennial Bank Stadium. The Red Wolves visit Georgia State today.

JONESBORO — Arkansas State scored enough points to prevail last Saturday at Louisiana-Monroe despite missing a few opportunities for more.

If ASU’s last two meetings with Georgia State are any indication, the Red Wolves figure to need all they can get this afternoon in Atlanta.

The Red Wolves and Panthers traded scores most of the game when they met last year in Jonesboro, ASU prevailing 59-52 on a touchdown pass to running back Lincoln Pare with 4:23 to play. Georgia State won 52-38 two years ago in Atlanta while ringing up 722 yards of total offense.

Last season’s meeting was on Georgia State coach Shawn Elliott’s mind during Monday’s Sun Belt teleconference.

“They’re bringing a throwing attack that we haven’t seen a lot of this year, but they can throw it around a little bit,” Elliott said. “We remember our game from a year ago when it was a 59-52 shootout. I think they had 609 yards of total offense and threw it for 551 yards against us a year ago. That was a stinger.”

Kickoff at Center Parc Stadium in Atlanta is set for 1 p.m.

Georgia State (5-5, 4-2 Sun Belt) is trying to become bowl eligible. ASU (2-8, 1-5 Sun Belt), which is playing its last road game of the season, is trying to build on last week’s 27-24 victory over ULM that snapped an eight-game losing streak.

The Red Wolves outscored the Warhawks 17-3 over the last 25 minutes of the game, including the final 10 points. Blake Grupe’s 42-yard field goal with 1:17 left stood as the margin of victory when Samy Johnson intercepted a pass in the last minute.

ASU quarterback Layne Hatcher completed 34-of-50 passes for a career-high 444 yards and two touchdowns in the victory. Coach Butch Jones felt the Red Wolves should have scored more points on a day when they gained 538 total yards.

“We made the plays that we needed to, but felt that we left some points out there,” Jones said. “For us to continue to move forward in the last two games of the year, we have to do a much better job offensively in terms of critical downs, and what I mean by that is third and fourth down conversions particularly.”

Georgia State is coming off a dramatic victory, too, a 42-40 triumph over then-No. 22 Coastal Carolina on the road. Darren Grainger passed for 198 yards and two touchdowns in his hometown of Conway, S.C., and the Panthers stopped a late two-point conversion to seal the upset.

Elliott didn’t want to discuss the possibility of his team finishing with as many as seven or eight wins.

“I can’t start even talking about that. All I can really do is start talking about Arkansas State,” Elliott said. “We’ve had a pretty good couple of weeks, successful weeks. We had a tough loss at Louisiana, but we’ve played well the last several weeks.”

The Panthers have won four of their last five games, the only setback being a 21-17 loss at UL Lafayette when the Ragin’ Cajuns scored with 2:32 left in the game.

Georgia State opened the season 1-4 with losses to Army (43-10), North Carolina (59-17), Auburn (34-24) and Appalachian State (45-16). The Panthers have since beaten ULM (55-21), Texas State (28-16) and Georgia Southern (21-14) in addition to their victory over Coastal Carolina.

Tucker Gregg (718 yards) and Jamyest Williams (577 yards) have given Georgia State a 1-2 punch at running back. Grainger, a transfer from Furman, has passed for 1,220 yards and 14 touchdowns and rushed for 445 yards.

Georgia State has been the Sun Belt’s best team in red zone offense, scoring on 26 of 28 possessions inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.

“That’s a byproduct of being able to run the football,” Jones said of the Panthers’ red zone success. “I think the quarterback adds a whole other dynamic and then defensively they swarm the football. They do a great job of taking the football away and they make you earn everything. They don’t give up very many explosive plays on defense. This is a very, very good football team and they’ve won four of their last five games.”

Jones said the Red Wolves probably had their best game of the season defensively last week, aside from giving up runs of 53 and 75 yards to ULM’s Malik Jackson. ASU still held ULM to 372 total yards, the fewest for a Red Wolf opponent since Central Arkansas had just 338 in the season opener.

“You really appreciate winning. You can never not appreciate that,” ASU defensive end Joe Ozougwu said. “It was a great feeling, a great feeling.”

The Red Wolves will close the season at home next Saturday against Texas State. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m.