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Perfect start: Panthers start football program with win

Photo by Staff Photo: Jason Braverman

Photo by Staff Photo: Jason Braverman

ATLANTA -- For the two years since Georgia State announced it was starting a football program until Thursday night's debut game, a popular T-shirt has bore the slogan, "Still Undefeated."

For at least another nine days until the second game, that slogan is still accurate.

Drew Little threw for a pair of touchdowns and running back Parris Lee added two more as the Panthers defeated Shorter 41-7 before an animated crowd of 30,237 at the Georgia Dome.

The win not only capped a festive evening for GSU (1-0) with a historic win, but also gave a victory to Bill Curry in his return to coaching after a 14-year hiatus.

The Panthers couldn't have given Curry a much better return, outgunning Shorter (0-1) in total offense 366-254.

Little completed 13 of 17 passes for 135 yards and two touchdowns, one of which went to Mill Creek grad Emmanuel Ogbuehi.

Meanwhile, Peachtree Ridge grad Sidney Haynes wound up as GSU's leading receiver with four receptions for 52 yards.

GSU took advantage of a couple of Shorter penalties to score on the first offensive possession in school history.

The first was an illegal participation infraction on a GSU punt after the initial drive stalled just past midfield, giving the Panthers a first down at the Shorter 32.

The second was a 15-yard pass interference call a few plays later.

And after a clutch third-down conversion on a 15-yard completion from Little to Danny Williams, Lee gave GSU its first touchdown with a 4-yard run, and its first lead of the night at 7-0 with 9:07 left in the first quarter.

The Panthers increased that lead in the second quarter with the help of a few former Gwinnett high school standouts.

Hayes came up with a nifty 19-yard catch and run on third and 19 to keep alive a 10-play, 59-yard march, which Duluth grad Iain Vance capped with his 22-yard field goal to make the score 10-0 with 8:58 left in the first half.

After Olufemi Opanubi pounced on a Shorter fumble three plays later on the Hawks' 30, the Panthers quickly cashed in as Little hit Ogbuehi with a 4-yard scoring strike to make the score 20-0 with 5:48 left in the half.

The GSU defense, which limited Shorter to just 99 yards of total offense in the first half, came up with another stop.

And after another touchdown pass from Little was nullified on a penalty, Vance kicked his second field goal of the game -- this time from 18-yards out -- with 19 seconds left in the half to give the Panthers a 20-0 lead heading into intermission.

Shorter had its best offensive drive of the game to that point to open the third quarter, moving 35 yards in 12 plays -- 22 on runs by quarterback Ben Williams -- to as deep as the Georgia State 27.

But the drive stalled and after a 5-yard delay of game penalty, David Guilford's 50-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left.

The Panthers eventually push the lead to 27-0 after Lee scored his second touchdown of the game, this time from 10 yards out, with 2:12 left in the period.

Shorter was able to avoid the shutout as Williams capped a 17-play, 80-yard drive drained 8:58 off the clock with his 1-yard sneak, which cut the GSU lead to 27-7 with 8:14 to play.

But GSU added the finishing touches as Little hit Jordan Giles with a 16-yard touchdown pass and reserve quarterback Kelton Hill added a 24-yard scoring run later in the fourth quarter.