William Inman, 404-413-1355
It’s been more than two decades since GSU Head Football Coach Bill Curry roamed the sidelines at Bryant-Denny Stadium as Alabama’s head coach. On Thursday, Nov. 18, Curry will return to Tuscaloosa, Ala., where he will lead his upstart Panthers into the historic stadium to face the defending national champion and 11th ranked Crimson Tide.
|GSU Head Coach Bill Curry spent three seasons at Alabama and compiled a 26-10 record, highlighted by a 10-2 mark and the SEC title in 1989. Photo courtesy of Alabama Athletic Media Relations.|
The matchup marks the first time a first-year start-up program will have faced the defending NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) champs.
The game will be nationally televised on ESPNU with the announcing team of Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit, Desmond Howard and Erin Andrews. This is Georgia State's fourth televised game of the season but first to air nationally.
“We would have preferred to wait until year two or three to take on a challenge like this, but 2010 was the only opening that Alabama had available and we just didn’t want to pass up this chance,” Curry said.
The matchup will also be the final game of the season for GSU. No matter what happens Thursday, the Panthers will come out of its first campaign with a winning record.
With its come from behind win over Lamar Nov. 6, the Panthers finished with a 5-2 record at the Georgia Dome and sit at 6-4 overall.
There has been no shortage of excitement during the inaugural season: GSU played two overtime games, winning 20-17 against North Carolina Central on Oct. 16, and losing 27-34 to Jacksonville St., then the Football Championship Subdivision’s (FCS) No. 4 team, on Sept. 18.
Undoubtedly, Alabama poses the team’s most formidable challenge yet, and the game is shaping up as a true David versus Goliath matchup.
“I mean, it’s Alabama,” said linebacker Mark Hogan. “They’re at the top of their game and we’re just starting out.”
With 13 claimed national championships, Alabama is one of the most celebrated programs in college football, and they also boast last season’s Heisman trophy winner in running back Mark Ingram. The colossal Bryant-Denny Stadium holds more than 100,000 screaming fans and it is the fifth-largest stadium in the nation.
“Nothing we’ve done thus far will approximate what they will see,” Curry said. “I’m trying to make them understand. It’s going to be a transforming life experience for these guys and, naturally, they are very excited."
Curry coached Alabama from 1987-89 and his team won the Southeastern Conference championship in 1989. That championship year, he was also named the Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year.
“At Bryant-Denny, I remember watching the opposing team’s eyes get big when they ran out onto the field,” Curry said.
This won’t be Curry’s first time on the opposing sideline in Tuscaloosa. In 1996, Curry’s Kentucky Wildcats visited Bryant-Denny. The result was a 35-7 demolition at the hands of the Tide.
Curry's coaching record against Alabama stands at 2-4, however. His Georgia Tech teams went 2-3 against the Crimson Tide from 1980-84, including a pair of memorable victories. In 1981, Curry's rebuilding Georgia Tech squad finished the season with a 1-10 record, but the one win was a 24-21 victory over fourth-ranked Alabama at Legion Field in Birmingham. In 1984, Tech knocked off a 19th-ranked Alabama team, 16-6, in Atlanta.
“This kind of environment causes you to play well or come unglued,” Curry said. “We're going to have to play faster than we've ever played, and I think we will. You find what you do best and you control that; make sure you've got that right. You might add a couple of wrinkles, but you don't try to do too much.
“We will not quit. We have fought back every time we have got in a hole this season.”
It’s not unprecedented for a FCS team to beat a traditional FBS powerhouse on its home turf. Earlier this year, fellow Colonial Athletic Association member James Madison shocked Virginia Tech, and Jacksonville St. beat Ole Miss in Oxford, Miss., the week before GSU took the Gamecocks into overtime.
“I can’t say that I don’t think about [pulling an upset],” said center Ben Jacoby. “Because, hey, everyone puts their pants on one leg at a time.”
Besides Curry, there are a handful of others making returns to Tuscaloosa. George Pugh, GSU's assistant head coach/recruiting coordinator and wide receivers coach, played tight end at Alabama under coach Paul "Bear" Bryant. During his four years (1972-75), the Crimson Tide lost just one regular-season game, highlighted by a national championship in 1973.
Assistant head coach/defensive coordinator John Thompson spent one year (1987) on the Alabama staff as the linebackers coach under Curry.
Backup quarterback Star Jackson was a member of the Crimson Tide's 2009 national championship team before transferring to Georgia State last June. While at Alabama, he played in five games as a redshirt freshman in 2009, completing 13 of 18 passes for 116 yards.
Placekicker Iain Vance spent time as a walk-on for the Crimson Tide in 2008-09 but did not play in a game.
Tight end and long-snapper Bailey Woods, a transfer from Auburn, played against the Crimson Tide in last year's 26-21 win by Alabama.
Capping the already successful inaugural season with a nationally televised game against a team like Alabama is, regardless of the final score, a win for Curry and the GSU program.
“We know how lucky we are to bring our kids into this environment,” Curry said. “And we’re going to play our guts out and do the best we can.”
Live radio coverage is also available on the GSU radio network, including Newstalk 1160 WFCO-AM, WMLB-AM 1690, and Georgia State University station WRAS-FM 88.5.