The Hawks, however, would have preferred not to go in as the Panthers’ first victims.
But that’s the way it unfolded on Thursday night as the Hawks traveled to the Georgia Dome and suffered a 41-7 loss to the brand-new GSU program before a crowd of a 30,237.
The Panthers certainly didn’t look like a team playing their first-ever game.
They jumped on the board on their first drive after a costly penalty by Shorter allowed the drive to continue on fourth down. Parris Lee scored on a four-yard run to put Georgia State on top, and the Panthers stayed in front from there.
Lee finished with two touchdowns for Georgia State. He had 62 yards on eight carries with scoring runs of four and 10 yards.
Shorter coach Phil Jones said he was impressed with Georgia State and head coach Bill Curry’s young team.
“They’ve got a good program, and have done a good job recruiting,” said Jones. “I told him congratulations after the game and that he did a good job. I think they’ll have a good year.”
Curry, the former Georgia Tech and Alabama head coach, said the Panthers’ first game in just the manner he was hoping to see, and said the long hours of preparation for the historical game paid dividends.
“You always hope and pray that it all manifests on the field when the lights come on,” said Curry. “I had no doubt that we would dominate the game.”
And they did.
The Hawks only score came early in the fourth quarter when quarterback Ben Williams plunged in from a yard out. Williams was one of the few bright spots for Shorter, rushing for 106 yards on 26 carries. He also threw for 57 yards.
“We went out there and played our heart out,” said Jones. “We’ve just got to get better.”
Shorter, which lost to NCAA Division II member West Alabama on Saturday, is now 0-2.
“We’ve played two good teams and that will allow us to look at the tape and find the things that can be corrected,” Jones said.
The Hawks finished with 263 total yards, 206 of them on the ground. It was improvement of 66 yards (total offense) from last week against West Alabama.
“We moved the ball better,” said Jones. “We stayed on blocks better, but we are still struggling some.”
The Hawks next best rusher after Williams was Octavius Edge, who finished with 49 yards on 11 carries. Collyn Copeland led Shorter in tackles with 11.5.
The Panthers led 20-0 at the half, but Shorter came out and drove the ball into Georgia State territory on their first drive after the break. But once again penalties drove the Hawks back, forcing them to punt.
Shorter was set back 115 yards total in penalties for the night. Jones said that played a big role in the outcome.
“We are a better football team than we showed,” said Jones. “We had a lot of effort penalties, but we’ve got to make sure we’re doing things the right way and not making mistakes.”
Georgia State quarterback Drew Little completed 13-of-17 passes for 135 yards and two touchdowns. His first scoring throw came to Emmanuel Ogbuehi in the second quarter for four yards. He then added another in the fourth on a 16-yard connection with Jordan Giles.
The scoring closed with Panthers quarterback Kelton Hill running in from 24 yards out.
Despite the loss, Jones was able to take some positives from being on this kind of stage in front of the announced attendance 30,237.
“Obviously, the exposure is good for recruiting,” said Jones. “We were fortunate to be a part of it.”
The magnitude of the moment was certainly not lost on Curry, either.
“I feel wonderful,” he said. “(With our program), faith and family come first. But we love football, too.”
Georgia State is back in the Dome next Saturday, hosting Lambuth. The Hawks now get a couple weeks off before traveling to Pikeville on Sept. 18.