The Gamecocks won in blowout fashion tonight against rival Samford to claim the series lead and a 2nd round matchup against McNeese State in the FCS playoffs. Jacksonville State dominated in every phase of the game and used backups for the entire fourth quarter. The win is the first FCS playoff victory in the program’s history.
The biggest story of the night was the dominance of the Gamecock defense.Samford quarterback Andy Summerlin could not get anything going, and the Bulldogs did not get a first down until the third quarter. The defensive backfield for Jacksonville State forced Summerlin to throw in tight windows all night. Running back Fabian Truss was a big loss for Samford with an injury prior to the game and left the Bulldogs playing left handed the entire night. The Gamecocks forced three fumbles with one recovered in the end zone by safety Robert Gray for a touchdown in the second half.
Jacksonville State amassed 482 yards of offense with over 360 on the ground. Quarterback Eli Jenkins started again for the Gamecocks and did not disappoint as the signal caller. Jenkins rushed for over 100 yards with a big 72-yard touchdown run. He also completed ten passes for 110 yards and a touchdown to receiver Telvin Brown. Brown, in his first game back at 100%, was a threat all over the field. The Gamecocks’ all-purpose weapon had a receiving and rushing touchdown in addition to a strong night returning kicks. Running back DaMarcus James had another solid night, running for 124 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Running back Miles Jones rounded out the backfield scoring with a touchdown at the end of the first half.
As an added note, the kicking team had one of their best nights of the year. Kicker Griffin Thomas made two out of three field goals with the third hitting the upright from nearly fifty yards out. Punter Hammish MacInness punted for an average of 47 yards with three punts inside the 20, including a 60+ yard punt to the Samford one yard line.
Samford’s high-scoring offense only managed 201 yards against Jacksonville State, a season low. Summerlin finished the night with 81 yards passing and a touchdown. Receiver Karel Hamilton threw a touchdown pass on a trick play to fullback Tony Philpot late in the game to score Samford’s second touchdown. Running back Jeremiah Gates filled in for Fabian Truss with over 60 yards rushing.
Tonight’s win gives JSU Head Coach Bill Clark his tenth win of the season, one away from tying the program’s single-season record for a first year head coach. Next week, Jacksonville State will face the 6th seed McNeese State Cowboys in St. Charles, Louisiana. Next week’s game will air Saturday at 6 PM CDT on ESPN 3.