A crowd of 24,333 filled the former Turner Field, which has been converted into a new home for Georgia State football, but the Panthers (0-1) struggled offensively, hurting themselves with five turnovers.
Tennessee State (1-0) quarterback Treon Harris, the Florida transfer, passed for 145 yards and rushed for 91, including a 12-yard touchdown in the third quarter that proved to be the difference.
GSU quarterback Conner Manning completed 14 of 17 passes for 159 yards but left the game in the third quarter due to injury. Taz Bateman caught six passes for 74 yards and a touchdown an rushed 11 times for 31 yards.
After trailing 10-3 at the half, Georgia State appeared to be driving for the tying score early in the third quarter when Conner Manning's 59-yard pass to Ari Werts put GSU at the Tennessee State 13. But the Panthers came up short on 4th-and-goal at the 4-yard line by the slimmest of margins.
Two plays later, Seth Rowland broke the through the middle for a 59-yard gain for the Tigers, setting up Harris' 12-yard touchdown run that put TSU ahead 17-3.
GSU backup quarterback Aaron Winchester found Bateman for a short gain in the flat, and the GSU running back turned it into a 39-yard touchdown, pulling GSU within 17-10 with 11 minutes left.
The Panthers' defense forced a three-and-out to give Georgia State possession at midfield with nine minutes to go, but GSU fumbled on the next play.
Georgia State had one final chance as the defense held late in the game to force a punt with 1:45 left. The Panthers took over at their own 44, but Winchester was intercepted and Tennessee State ran out the clock.