Jacksonville State scored 21 in the first quarter and did not look back en route to its ninth win of the season. In a flashback game, both teams rushed for over 400 yards and only passed the ball 21 times. Both teams execute well on third down and made the defenses look terrible in cold conditions that would usually favor the defense.
JSU won the game behind the legs of its three-headed rushing attack of QB Eli Jenkins, RB DaMarcus James, and RB Troymaine Pope. James broke with OVC single season rushing TD record and finishes the with 23 touchdowns and finished with 206 yards for the day. Jenkins and Pope both rushed for over 100 yards. The offense set a school record for offensive yards in a season with inconsistent quarterback play. Jenkins got the nod to start at QB and for the first time this year took every snap of the game.
SEMO held its own on offense, starting the game with two big runs to reach the end zone. Running back DeMichael Jackson averaged 9.6 yards per carry on his way to 183 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Scott Lathrop could never get it going at QB, but the running game was effective enough to move the chains regardless.
Neither defense played well with over 1,000 yards allowed by the squads. Both teams forced an interception with SEMO’s beginning the late rally that almost won the game.
As previously stated, the fireworks started early for the Gamecocks with big runs from James and Jenkins. SEMO looked good on offense, but the JSU defense got stops at midfield to prevent all but on SEMO score in the first half. In the second quarter, the Gamecocks scored once more off James’ third touchdown of the day. At halftime, everything looked like the second half would be a blowout.
After a great Marching Southerners performance during halftime, a light rain rolled in and sent thousands of Gamecock fans home. When the players left the locker rooms, there could not have been more than five thousand fans in the stands. Kyle Snyder entered the game at QB for SEMO and scored on the first drive of the third quarter. Jacksonville State answered with two touchdowns from young back Troymaine Pope.
Going into the 4th, the Gamecocks had a comfortable 42-13 lead and the backups began to rotate into the game. SEMO, on the other hand, kept running right at JSU’s interior defense. Smart plays by Snyder and a few big runs by Jackson put the Redhawks within 8 points with over seven minutes left to play.
Jax State kicker Griffin Thomas uncharacteristically missed a late field goal that would have put the game to rest, and SEMO had the ball with plenty of time to tie the game. Finally, the stadium erupted in support for the defense. The Redhawks marched down to the JSU 24 with time to score, but they could not convert a fourth down pass.
JSU did not get any style points for the selection committee, but their turnaround from last year was a success. There is still an outside chance at a playoff bid, but Head Coach Bill Clark and the young Gamecocks can leave the field happy with the results of the season. With most of the starters returning, the sky’s the limit for the next few years.
SEMO finishes the season with only three wins, but many of the losses were close, including today. If Lathrop and the passing game can continue to develop, this can be a scary team in 2014.