Arkansas State Red Wolves vs. Georgia State Panthers, 11/3/2016, 7:30pm
Score: Red Wolves 31 – Georgia State 16, Attendance: 13,363
Weather: Beautiful – 65; Ticket: $15 Stubhub ($20 at gate); Parking: Free (Shuttle from Hotel)
Review: “I will give them an incomplete, but it doesn’t look good”
Georgia State, located in Atlanta, plays at the Georgia Dome. Fortunately, this is the last year for that miserable site. My aversion to college programs, particularly small ones that play in pro stadiums, is well documented (See South Florida, UMass, Temple). Georgia State recently purchased the Braves old stadium, Fulton County, and will convert it into a football stadium. How that will work, I am not sure. I am confident that leaving the Georgia Dome can only be a plus. It has all the charm of a high colonic, starting with the limited open gates. When we arrived at the stadium, we had to walk all the way around to the one gate that was open and it was a long walk. Once there, there was an onerous bag check process. It was the one where essentially the only bag you could bring in was a large wallet or very small clutch. Otherwise, everything had to be dumped into a clear plastic bag. Now, I have seen this at some large stadiums, but I am usually not with my wife so I don’t notice it. However, this time she was with me and she was not amused. I understand the terrorist threat and all, but there were maybe 5,000 at this game; it was not exactly a target. To top it off, they had the bag check across the street from the stadium instead of near the gate.
Once we got it inside, it didn’t get much better. Being the Falcons home stadium, everything was red and black. This was particularly unfortunate as it happened to also be the colors of the opponent. Georgia State countered this by making the game a “black out” and wearing their black and blue uniforms. It was the one thing good about the Panthers according to my wife. Arkansas State was wearing their away whites so the color disparity was not so noticeable. The concessions were your standard pro stadium fare and not noteworthy. The souvenir cup was no better. Instead of branded Georgia State Panther cup, it was a “last year in the Dome” cup. So it was not at all related to Georgia State and not even in their colors. At least it was free refills the whole game. The stadium did sell beer and I probably should have partook in hopes of improving my mood.
There were some good things about the Dome. It was a nice regulated temperature and the two video boards were big and bright. Our tickets were crazy cheap. $15 all in for the 50 yard line 4 rows up. I bought them on Stubhub, but they had tickets available at the gate. There was one very lonely scalper looking to sell and buy. I can’t believe the margin on that ticket flip would be worth anything. We can’t comment on the tailgating because we came in opposite of the lots. Judging by the winning “tailgaters of the game”, it was not a vibrant scene. The picture of the winners made it appear as if they were the only ones in the lot. There was a lot of empty asphalt out there. We did come across some Panther fans before the game at the restaurant we attended. They were friendly and told me to set my expectations very low. The game was so sparsely attended, we easily saw them in their seats when we came into the Dome. I can’t say for sure, but I think we missed the free “black out” t-shirts at the gate They certainly could have used some more black in the stadium. I would have liked to have the t-shirt because it was probably the only way Georgia State was going to get representation in my man cave. I can’t see myself buying Panther gear. I will say that the fans at the game were vocal and into the game. There were no discernible signature cheers. I think the hand sign might have been a panther claw, but can’t say for sure as I didn’t see a lot of that.
One thing I did like was the twist on the “red zone” for the offense. When the team got inside the twenty, they had entered the Georgia Gas blue zone and it was time to “turn up the heat”. The graphic on the video ribbons was the blue flame of natural gas and about the only time it felt like you weren’t in the Falcons stadium. The band was okay, better for their enthusiasm than their music. The marching band also sported a rock band quintet that came out on a trailer. It worked, sort of. They have a panther mascot but he really didn’t have any shtick. Given that it is a small school, they had to have a ton of hokey promotions to fill in time during the TV time outs.
Georgia State is located in the heart of Atlanta. I like visiting Atlanta once you get to downtown proper and can get out of the traffic. Driving in and out of Atlanta is the pits. We took a shuttle from a very nice Marriott Fairfield Inn in downtown. I feel compelled to plug them because we got great customer service and a free shuttle ride near the stadium. It was a nice night out so we walked back to our hotel. I wouldn’t say the area was vibrant when walking back, but we didn’t feel unsafe either. It should be noted that we flew into Atlanta and our flight was an hour late. It really limited our options to pregame and we were a bit rushed. I can’t say anything about Georgia State’s campus because I have no idea if we walked by it or not. We did pass their school for public policy, so it must have been nearby.
The game was surprisingly close in the beginning. The Red Wolves were the favorites, coming in at 4 – 4, but 4 – 0 in Sun Belt. Georgia State was 2-7. The Arkansas State first two drives were good, except that they ended in missed field goals. Similarly, Georgia State could not do much and when the first quarter ended it was 0 – 0. The Panthers got on the board first with a field goal which was immediately answered with a field goal by the Red Wolves. The second quarter continued in the same vein, back and forth with little scoring. Then, with only 2 minutes left in the half, Georgia State drives to the Arkansas State 33 yard line. There, the Wolves defense stiffened and the Panthers had to kick a field goal. Unfortunately, it was blocked and with a scoop and a score and Arkansas State went up 10 – 3. That was special team’s gaffe number one. Georgia State rallied in the second half, scoring a touchdown to tie it up. The Panther defense then forced a punt and the crowd started to get fired up. The Georgia State offense struggled and had to punt or I should say tried to punt. Then the Panthers made their second special teams error with a snap over the punter’s head. Arkansas State recovered on the GSU 19. Five plays later and the score was 17 – 10 Red Wolves as the 3rd quarter came to an end. The not so special teams continued for the Panthers as they gave up another touchdown on an Arkansas State punt return. Amazingly, Georgia State answered with a kickoff return for a touchdown of their own. At this point, I was thinking that this game was going to go down to the wire as the Panthers lined up for the kick. Fittingly, the kick was blocked and it was 24 – 16 Red Wolves. The Panthers defense continued to play tough but their offense just couldn’t move the ball. After a desperate failed fourth down attempt deep in their own territory, Georgia State gave up the ball on downs on their five yard line. The Red Wolves punched in an insurance score and that was all she wrote.
It was a decent game to watch, evenly played, with some hard hitting. It, however, could have been much better if Georgia State’s special teams had shown up. Every time momentum would fire up the team and crowd, a botched play by the Panthers would take out all the air in the stadium, err dome. By the end of the night, the fans were calling for Georgia State’s coach, Trent Miles, head. Evidently the administration heard the chants as Miles was fired the following week.
Not much to add here, except to document some drama late in the game. Sometime in the fourth quarter, security came down and escorted some fans out of their seats after being picked out by the ushers. The fans in question had been sitting adjacent to us and had been drinking but not to what appeared to excess. Sometime during the game they moved down one more section so we couldn’t really see what was going on. From what I could make out, they evidently had started yelling at someone on the sidelines. Apparently, there was a display of public urination. I specifically heard one woman yell “He was pissing on the wall.” Oddly enough just a week early a college coach had been busted peeing in a cup. It, evidently, is not that rare. However, in this instance, I don’t think it was a player or coach, but rather one of the ushers. This is pure speculation on my part based on the numerous gestures made toward the ushers. I think it was the most exciting part of the game for my wife – the police escort that is, not the guy peeing.
I will grade Georgia State with an incomplete given the upcoming move to the new stadium. There are some other improvements they could make. For one, start building some traditions. Perhaps develop a hand sign or a signature cheer. Presumably, the new stadium will be branded in black, blue and white. They already fired the coach so that part is done. If I were a fan, I’d do a little research before I made a trip to their stadium. I would check out their record, the opponent, and make sure they are evenly matched. I would also make sure that Georgia Tech isn’t home that weekend. I think just about any college football fan is going like the Georgia Tech experience far more than that of the Georgia State.