You can't sugarcoat Georgia State's ineptness
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Things are pretty bad these days in the Georgia State football program.
That's the team that comes to Morgantown Saturday to face West Virginia. It might be one of the worst FBS-level college football teams of all time. It is almost certainly the worst playing right now.
Consider that the Panthers, who have been playing the game just three years prior to this one, opened their first year of FBS competition by losing to two FCS programs the last two weeks. And we're not talking upsets like the others sprinkled across the country. Georgia State was the underdog in both and lost badly.
Tennessee-Chattanooga beat the Panthers 42-14, rushed for over 400 yards and held Georgia State to 30 yards on the ground. Ouch.
This is just a bad football team. Even Dana Holgorsen admits that.
"So, not to make light of them or anything, but is it hard to find anything good to say about Georgia State?'' I asked the West Virginia coach the other day.
"Yep,'' Holgorsen said.
OK, so he then went into a couple of minutes about how young the program was and that he didn't know much about the facilities and yadda, yadda, yadda. But you get the idea. The Panthers play Alabama in three weeks. Maybe Nick Saban will find something nice to say.
And who knows, maybe by then even Trent Miles will be a little more optimistic. He's Georgia State's first-year head coach. But even he's struggling now.
After the lopsided loss to Chattanooga - the Mocs led 42-0 at one point - Miles openly questioned his team's effort. It's one thing to be bad. It's quite another to not even try.
"I don't think we played hard enough,'' Miles said a few days after that game. "I think our expectations were to play harder than we did and I don't feel like our kids played as hard as they possibly could. I thought they got down when UT-Chattanooga took the lead on us. I think they got a little demoralized and hung their heads and it affected how they performed.
"When young men don't look like they're playing as hard as they can, it makes you look bad talent-wise. That's what happened.''
Truth is, the Panthers are probably bad talent-wise, too, and they may have gotten worse this week. Not only is Georgia State losing games, it's losing players, too. Two fifth-year senior offensive linemen quit the team. Both were starters.
Oh, and Miles fired his running backs coach, Tony Tiller. And why not? Mack Brown set the precedent a day earlier with Manny Diaz, right? If giving up 550 rushing yards to BYU is a fireable offense for a defensive coordinator, isn't rushing for 30 yards against Chattanooga cause for canning a running backs coach?
Things didn't start out this way for the Georgia State program. When the school decided to begin football back in 2007, it hired Dan Reeves as a consultant. Bill Curry was hired as the first coach. The offensive coordinator now is Jeff Jagodzinski, late of the Boston College head-coaching job. The school plays its home games at the Georgia Dome, has a huge enrollment (over 32,000) and is in the heart of one of the best recruiting areas in the country.
Things just haven't worked out yet, though. The Panthers did OK in their first year, going 6-5 against teams like Shorter and Lambuth, whatever those are. The schedule was upgraded a bit the next year and the record fell to 3-8. Last year, playing an FCS schedule in the Colonial Athletic Association, the Panthers were 1-10. Curry then bailed.
Maybe this capsulizes things as well as possible. At the start of the 2011 season, Georgia State's returning starting quarterback, Drew Little, was suspended for the first four games for violating rules. One backup, Star Jackson, left the team. The other backup, Kelton Hill, was arrested for burglary.
Bo Schlechter wound up as the starter. He moved there from punter.
All is not lost for Georgia State, though. Miles was hired because he has a history of turning an awful program around. After coaching stints with Stanford, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Washington and the Green Bay Packers, among other stops, he coached Indiana State the last five seasons. He was 19-14 there the last three years after starting 0-12 and 1-10 while inheriting a team that had won just one game in the previous three seasons.
First things first, though. Before Miles can build a winner, he has to build a team that will simply compete. That the Panthers just seemed to give up against Chattanooga was not a good sign. That they play West Virginia and Alabama in two of the next three games doesn't bode well, either.
But Miles swears the team that comes to Morgantown Saturday will compete.
"After the first game, I thought we were past stage one in teaching them to compete, but obviously I was wrong,'' Miles said. "So we're back to stage one, teaching guys how to compete every play, every down, even when things don't go their way.
"Even if it's only 11 guys, we're going to put 11 guys on that plane and we're going to go there and play as hard as we can possibly play.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.