ULMWarhawks.com Online Columnist
ATLANTA — No sugarcoating this one.
ULM turned in a disappointing performance Saturday with a 46-14 loss at Georgia State.
The Warhawks lost their third straight game overall after a 2-0 start to the season while falling to 0-2 in the Sun Belt Conference.
As head coach Matt Viator noted, Georgia State did “really, whatever they wanted, to be honest with you. We didn’t do nearly enough on offense for sure with three turnovers in the first half. Then we didn’t move the ball in the second half. Defensively, we held in for a while, but they made too many big plays.
“I don’t know, there’s really not more I can say,” Viator added. “Really poor job coaching, really poor job playing. We played poorly in all three phases of the game.”
A woeful first half saw ULM give up 355 yards on defense and commit three turnovers on offense while falling behind 30-14 at Georgia State Stadium.
“Obviously, we have to play a lot better than that,” Viator said as he left the field at halftime. “The three turnovers hurt us for sure, and we didn’t stop them on their first four drives. Just a bad first half.”
But the second half wasn’t any better and the Warhawks never rallied the way they did a week before after falling behind to Troy. ULM managed just one first down in the final two quarters and punted on six of seven series amid a flurry of three-and-outs.
“We’ve got to get back to Monroe and look at the tape and try to get better,” Viator said. “I just didn’t see this coming for sure. I don’t know, we just didn’t play and didn’t play from the start. We got outplayed.”
Georgia State (2-3, 1-0 Sun Belt) set a team rushing record with 308 yards on the ground. The Panthers tallied 487 yards overall in a dominant outing.
ULM managed just 262 yards of total offense, committed four turnovers and was just 2-of-11 on third-down conversions with eight punts. Quarterback Caleb Evans completed 19-of-32 attempts for 136 yards, had two interceptions and scored both of his team’s touchdowns on the ground.
The Panthers scored on their opening drive, utilizing a 56-yard pass from Dan Ellington to Dan Pinkney to the ULM 2. The big play set up a 2-yard run by Ellington to give Georgia State a 7-0 lead with 11:55 to go in the first quarter. The drive covered 75 yards in eight plays.
ULM’s first try didn’t go as well as Evans had a tipped ball intercepted by Jhi’Shawn Taylor. The Panthers took over at their own 40 and scored eight plays later as Tra Barnett bolted unscathed up the middle for a 23-yard touchdown. Georgia State led 14-0 with 7:18 left in the quarter.
ULM responded quickly as Evans legged out a 21-yard touchdown to narrow the gap to 14-7 at the 4:26 mark. ULM’s drive covered 72 yards in seven plays.
Georgia State carried a scoring drive into the second quarter to go ahead 20-7 with 13 minutes left in the half. Ellington converted a fourth-and-6 along the way and then hit tight end Roger Carter for a 4-yard touchdown pass. The Panthers misfired on the PAT.
Seth Paige set a school record as he scored on an 82-yard run on his first rushing attempt as Georgia State scored on its fourth-straight possession and extended the home lead to 27-7 with 11:48 to go in the second quarter.
Running back Kayin White seemingly gave the ULM offense a spark with a career-best 43-yard run but he lost control of the ball and fumbled through the end zone for a touchback and second turnover.
The beleaguered ULM defense came through one play later though as Chase Day forced Ellington to fumble and Cortez Sisco recovered at the Panthers 42. Four plays later, Evans kept the ball on a fake end-around and ran in from 12 yards for his second touchdown and a 27-14 score with 9:34 remaining in the first half.
First-half woes continued though for the visitors. After forcing Georgia State’s first punt, the Warhawks committed a third turnover as tight end Sloan Spiller fumbled after a 3-yard reception at the ULM 46. The Panthers parlayed the miscue into points five plays later as Brandon Wright booted a 42-yard field goal for a 30-14 lead before the break.
Georgia State continued its dominance in the third quarter with a grueling15-play, 90-yard series to go up 36-14. After a 31-yard rush, Paige took the ball again on the next play and scored from 1 yard out with 6:19 remaining in the third quarter.
Paige finished with 145 yards on nine carries with two TDs.
The Panthers extended their lead to 39-14 as Wright kicked a 35-yard field goal to open the fourth quarter.
Also in the fourth quarter, Penny Hart made school history for Georgia State with his 49-punt return, the first in the program’s nine years of existence to give the Panthers a 46-14 lead.
“It seemed like we were always a step behind them and some of that’s probably coaching,” Viator said. “We’ve just got to do better. It seems like we were behind them and could never get ahead of them. It was one of those days where I didn’t see it coming for sure.”
ULM plays at Ole Miss on Oct. 6 with kickoff set for 3 p.m. The Rebels’ Homecoming game will be televised on the SEC Network. Ole Miss played at LSU late Saturday night.