DaMarcus James had his third straight three touchdown game and Max Shortell put up two touchdowns as Jacksonville State beat #22 UT Martin 41-27.
After allowing over 300 yards on the ground to Murray State, the Gamecocks would hold the Skyhawks to just 123 yards (68 versus starters). Head Coach Bill Clark‘s gameplan to limit the Skyhawks to the pass certainly worked in his favor, testing Dylan Favre to win the through the air. Favre would finish the day 24 of 36 for 290 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
Offensively the Gamecocks let James take over in the second half becoming the program’s first player with three career three touchdown games. Even more impressive, James did it in three consecutive games. Clark’s philosophy of feeding whoever is hot was seen as James got 23 of the team’s 37 carries in the ballgame.
Shortell was the leader of the offense to open the game, putting up his two touchdowns in the opening half. Shortell executed the play action and would go deep multiple times, completing three passes over 30 yards.
For the Skyhawks, the defense that normally carried the team had a bad day. Jacksonville State would put up over 400 yards of offense on the team and even more importantly over 200 yards on the ground. The defense saw multiple players get injured during some part of the game but they just couldn’t stop the running attack in the second half.
Offensively the Skyhawks couldn’t establish a running game, with D.J. McNeil and Favre combining for 31 carries and only 93 yards. When the game opened up, Simpson didn’t call a run until the team’s third drive, playing right into the Gamecock’s hands.
The Jacksonville State would score on their opening possession as James would run in from eight yards out to make it 7-0. The play of the drive was their first from scrimmage as Shortell found Markis Merrill for 46 yards. The Skyhawks would try to bounce back and drive deep into Jacksonville State territory but the Gamecock defense would make a stand on fourth down. The Gamecocks would drive the field thanks to another big pass from Shortell but would be held to just a field goal.
The Skyhawks would respond on their next drive as Favre would find Jeremy Butler from 10 yards out to make it a three point game. After a great punt return by Kevin Anderson, the Skyhawks would shoot themselves in the foot with a bad snap that would lead to just a field goal.
Both teams would settle down and go to their power running attacks but midway through the second quarter Jacksonville State would go to the air to grab the lead. After a 42 yard completion to Josh Barge, the Gamecocks would use a flea-flicker to get Spencer Goffigan wide open for a 36 yard touchdown. The Skyhawks would try to respond but once again it was a bad snap that cost them scoring opportunities as lineman Jordan Jackson hopped on the loose ball. After a dropped interception in the Skyhawk endzone, the Gamecocks would take advantage as Shortell would find favorite target Merrill for a nine yard touchdown just before the end of the first half to go into the locker room up 24-10.
UT Martin would open the second half with a quick three and out and then drive the field on a balanced attack of Favre. After a roughing the passer call that gave UTM a first down, the Skyhawks would conduct a 14 play drive that would end with Favre finding Butler from 17 yards out to cut the lead in half.
With momentum behind the Skyhawks, the Gamecocks would get an interception from linebacker Jermaine Hough to quiet the crowd. Jacksonville State would only get a field goal, as Griffin Thomas would get two chances thanks to a UTM offsides. UTM on their next drive would answer with a 44 yard field goal of their own.
After forcing UTM to punt out of their endzone, the Gamecocks would attempt a 4th and 7 at the Skyhawk 37. Shortell would scramble and pick up 18 yards after he couldn’t find an open receiver.
Much like the second half, the Gamecocks would rely on James to carry the offense. Jacksonville State would call four straight wildcat runs to James who would carry the ball the final nine yards for the touchdown. The Skyhawks would try to make a comeback midway through the fourth quarter but couldn’t.
Jarod Neal would get passed over when Favre was taken out of the game but in the team’s second drive with backups Neal would take the field and cap off a drive with a 27 yard touchdown run to cut the loss to just 14 points.
Jacksonville State will play host to Tennessee State next weekend. UT Martin will have a short week to deal with as they travel to Cookeville to take on Tennessee Tech Thursday.