Auburn needed a go-ahead touchdown in the final minute to avoid joining the list of ranked teams to take losses on Saturday, and Georgia State coach Shawn Elliott thinks his Panthers got an unfair ruling on the game's pivotal drive.
The longest of the 13 plays on Auburn's 98-yard touchdown drive was a 19-yard pass from TJ Finley to John Samuel Shenker that set up the Tigers at the 11-yard line. The play was reviewed by the officials, and replay on the broadcast appeared to show the ball hit the ground. Despite that, the catch was confirmed.
Elliott pointed to that play after the game, and the former South Carolina assistant put the blame on the SEC officials.
"They had a little bit of help on that review where the ball was incomplete," said Elliott, according to ESPN. "It should have been put back on the 30-yard line. But you know, when you play in the SEC, you gotta take the hits. And they gave us a real gut punch on that call. So we appreciate that."
Auburn's touchdown, three plays after the controversial ruling, put the Tigers up 27-24 with 45 seconds remaining. Then, two plays into Georgia State's frantic efforts to answer Auburn, defensive back Smoke Monday intercepted Darren Grainger and returned it for a touchdown to put a bow on the Tigers' 34-24 comeback win.
The disappointment for Elliott comes after Georgia State held the lead on the road against an SEC ranked opponent for nearly the entire second half. The Panthers took a 24-12 lead into halftime and had Auburn going its second-string quarterback in search of a spark due to the play of Georgia State's defense.
"Sports can rip you apart," Elliott said. "That was a tough one to lose."