ATLANTA — Parris Lee scored the first touchdown in Georgia State history, Drew Little threw a pair of scoring passes and the Panthers won their inaugural game Thursday night, beating Shorter 41-7 before a surprisingly large crowd of 30,237 at the Georgia Dome.
The game marked the return to coaching for 67-year-old Bill Curry, who had not been on the sideline since being forced out by Kentucky in 1996.
Even playing their first game as an NCAA Football Championship Subdivision independent, the Panthers had no trouble against Shorter (0-2), a tiny NAIA school from northwest Georgia that had lost its opener to Division II West Alabama 37-7.
Lee scored on a 4-yard run with 9:07 left in the first quarter for the historic first TD in school history. He added a 10-yard scoring run in the third quarter.
Little threw a 4-yard scoring pass to Emmanuel Ogbuehi and a 16-yarder to Jordan Giles. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound redshirt freshman won the starting quarterback job that many expected to go to Star Jackson, who had transferred to Georgia State after backing up Greg McElroy on Alabama’s
national championship team last season.
Jackson was going to be benched for the first half anyway for what was described as a minor violation of team rules, but Little had already claimed the No. 1 spot. He completed 13-of-17 for 135 yards.
The Panthers had only planned to sell seats in the lower bowl of the 71,000-seat Georgia Dome, known mainly as the home of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons. But a better-than-expected turnout from the student body led stadium officials to open up the club level at each end of the stadium.
Georgia State, which has never had much fan support to any of its athletic programs, actually outdrew the Atlanta Braves on this night. The major league team, playing about 2 miles away at Turner Field, lost to the New York Mets 4-2 before an announced crowd of 24,893.
That’s just what Georgia State, located in the heart of downtown Atlanta, was hoping for when it launched a football program more than two years ago — something to fire up an increasingly large number of traditional students who now live on a campus that used to cater mainly to commuters.
Georgia State scored on its very first possession, taking advantage of two crucial penalties on the Hawks. The Panthers were stopped on third down around midfield and punted the ball away, but Shorter was penalized for too many men on the field.
An interference penalty cost them another 15 yards, and Lee took it on in to send the big, largely blue-clad crowd into a frenzy.
“I love Georgia State football!” a fan sitting near the end zone screamed, throwing his arms in the air.”