Preview: JSU vs. Tennessee Martin

Jacksonville State is looking for something Saturday that it hasn’t had to look for this season– redemption.

Instead of being undefeated and in a four-way tie for first place in the OVC with Eastern Illinois, Tennessee State and UT Martin, the 4-1 Gamecocks sit in sixth place in the OVC following a 35-34 loss to Murray State  Saturday in overtime.

“Offensively, I felt like we left a lot of points on the board,” said JSU head coach Bill Clark. “Defensively, we played very well. Offensively, we had a great night moving the ball. Probably the thing for the whole night, offensively, was just turnovers. We’ve got to eliminate those. That’s something we haven’t done the whole year.”

The Murray State game has come and gone. It’s a loss that the Gamecocks want to learn from but not dwell on. They travel to play UT Martin Saturday.

“You hate to learn through a loss but I think we’ve learned some things.” Clark said. “I think the thing that we know going into this game is that it’s going to be a tough game.”

“If you had asked me before the season who did I think would be one of the contenders for the title or one of the teams we’d have to go through if we wanted to win it, you would’ve said UT Martin,” he said.

The Skyhawks (3-1, 1-0) claimed a 49-47 victory over the Gamecocks in 2012. In 2013, they are without the luxury of quarterback Derek Carr who passed for 402 yards and 7 touchdowns against JSU last year. They have replaced him with junior quarterback Dylan Favre, nephew of retired NFL quarterback Brett Favre.

“Now they’ve got a quarterback that can run,” said Clark. “He is really one of the more dynamic runners that I have seen. He gets back there and they don’t tackle him. I don’t think I’ve seen the first guy tackle him the whole year.”

The Skyhawks may be more of a run happy team now than in 2012, but coach Clark will not discredit their passing game.

“He’s (Favre) got a cannon for an arm,” he said. “They’ve got some really good receivers. (Jeremy) Butler, I think, is every bit as good as (Walter) Powell was last week.”

Despite coach Clark’s high praise, Martin’s offense ranks near the bottom of the OVC. The Skyhawks rank seventh in scoring, sixth in total offense,  seventh in passing and have given up the most sacks. Their running game is ranked second.

The Gamecocks, however, ranks second in scoring defense, first in sacks, and first in red zone defense.

“They’ve played really, really well,” Clark said about his defense. “That’s the expectation we have here. That’s how we’ve got to play.”

At the end of the day, rankings are just that–rankings. There is still a game to be played on Saturday. If it is anything like the 2012 meeting, it will come down to the last second, a place where the Gamecocks have made themselves at home this season.

“it’s going to be a war,” Clark said. “It’s going to be another tough game.”

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