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Georgia State faces big test with No. 4 JSU

Staff Photo: Jason Braverman. Georgia State University's Justin Hughes (16) tips a pass intended for Lambuth's Lee Yandell during last Saturday's game at the Georgia Dome. The ball was eventually intercepted by the Panthers.

Staff Photo: Jason Braverman. Georgia State University's Justin Hughes (16) tips a pass intended for Lambuth's Lee Yandell during last Saturday's game at the Georgia Dome. The ball was eventually intercepted by the Panthers.

ATLANTA — Just like it didn’t have much time to come back down to Earth from the high of the first win in school history, Georgia State’s football team has little time to rebound from the first loss — Saturday’s 23-14 setback to NAIA Lambuth.

Through the first few days of practice, however, coach Bill Curry seems to be pleased with how the Panthers (1-1) have reacted.

JACKSONVILLE STATE AT GEORGIA STATE

When: Saturday, 1 p.m.

Where: Georgia Dome

TV/Radio: CSS/88.5-FM

“One of they very best things about football when you have horrific performance is that you get to play again very soon if it’s not your last game of the year,” Curry said as he opened his weekly press conference Tuesday. “We’re excited about getting back on the field. We were excited to get back on the practice field and correct the things that were so obviously lacking in our last performance.”

Those corrections better come quickly considering the Panthers’ next opponent is Jacksonville State, which captured the nation’s attention with a 49-48 double overtime upset of SEC member Ole Miss in its opener two weeks ago.

The Gamecocks (2-0) come into the Georgia Dome for Saturday’s 1 p.m. kickoff ranked No. 4 in both Division I-FCS national polls — the highest in school history — after last Saturday’s come-from-behind 21-17 win over Chattanooga.

“We’re playing a team this week that’s on a roll,” Curry said. “They have the longest away from home winning streak (six) in (Division I-FCS) football. The statistic that stands out most to me will not be noticed by many people. Their fourth-quarter scoring for the season ... is 35-3. So, they are dominant in the fourth quarter against an SEC team and against an established (Division I-FCS) team.”

Jacksonville State also features more than two dozen players from Georgia, three of which — linebacker James Powell (Mill Creek), receiver Michael Bradford and kicker Griffin Thomas (both of South Gwinnett) — hail from Gwinnett County.

But the Georgian on the Gamecocks roster who probably concerns Curry and the Panthers most is quarterback Marques Ivory.

The Warner Robins native has completed 31 of 56 passes for 352 yards and three touchdowns against just two interceptions on the season, and is one half of a solid 1-2 quarterback punch with freshman Coty Blanchard.

As much as the Jacksonville State passing game will be a challenge for a GSU defense which has been solid the first two games, at least one Panther believes the key will be dealing with the other aspect of the Gamecock offense.

“We have to come out and stop the run,” said redshirt junior safety Brandon Jones, GSU’s third-leading tackler with 13 combined tackles and assists. “That’s the biggest part — stopping the run and getting their offense to be one-dimensional, so we can actually break them down. ... If we can get them in long passing situations, we can actually cause some turnovers and make big plays.”

Perhaps an even bigger key might be getting the Panther defense might some rest after it spent more than 70 percent of the game on the field against Lambuth.

So, it will be important for the GSU offense to be more productive, which leads to the inevitable and continuing question as to who will be leading that unit at quarterback Saturday.

Drew Little continues to be listed as the starter despite a poor game in which he completed on 5 of 12 passes and threw three interceptions last week.

However, Curry hinted that both Kelton Hill, who ran for 64 yards on five carries last week, and Alabama transfer Star Jackson could see action Saturday.

“It’s been a good news, bad news thing,” Curry said of the quarterback situation. “The good news is, we’ve got a lot of really good quarterbacks. The bad news is nobody’s really done it two weeks in a row.

“Our rule is, we’re not going to pull you just because you have one poor performance. So, Drew’s going to start this week. But he knows that the heat is on, not because we want to jerk him out if he doesn’t play well, but because the next two guys are also (ready). It really is a puzzle, but it’s a good puzzle and somebody will step up and take charge, and we’ll have able backups.”