Jacksonville State Leaves No Doubt
Jacksonville State made the playoffs as “a bubble team.”
The Gamecocks proved they belong in the playoffs with its 55-14 victory over SOCON Co-Champion Samford.
The win is the first JSU playoff win since 1992. The Gamecocks advance to the second round of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision playoffs and will take on McNeese State Saturday.
“I wanted to vindicate our league for us getting a third team,” head coach Bill Clark said. “We were playing for all of ourselves and the community. We also felt like we were playing for our league.”
The Ohio Valley Conference entered the playoffs on a 19 game losing streak in the playoffs. The most recent OVC playoff win was former member Western Kentucky in 2000. Tennessee State ended the streak by soundly defeated Butler 31-0 before JSU took the field. Between the two OVC schools who played in the first round, they outscored their opponents 86-14.
As for the Gamecocks’ game vs Samford, the heavily favored Gamecock rushing attack gave JSU 17-unanswered points in the first quarter. They came on a run of 2-yards from junior running back DaMarcus James and a 72- yard run by redshirt freshman quarterback Eli Jenkins.
Griffin Thomas added a 37-yard field goal.
Sophomore wide receiver Telvin Brown made his return to action for the first time since the game against Eastern Kentucky. He made his presence known in the second quarter on a 51-yard reception for a touchdown. He caught the pass on the four yard line and spun around, losing two Samford defenders and ran into the end zone.
“I saw him going to my shoulder that I made the move off of,” Brown said. “I didn’t even see the other defender that was coming to me. I don’t even know. I guess it’s just a lucky play.”
“I just saw him on the outside. I knew he was going to bite on it and he did. I didn’t know I was that close to the end zone either.”
DaMarcus James and Miles Jones each added a touchdown before the half expired. James scored on another run of a yard and Jones scored on a run of 12.
JSU led 38-0
On the first play of the second half, Telvin Brown took a handoff 64-yards for a touchdown.
Samford finally ended the shutout early in the third quarter. Andy Summerlin connected with Kelvin Clay for a 37-yard touchdown pass.
Senior Kicker Griffin Thomas put the next points on the board for JSU with a 47-yard field goal. That was his 22nd of the season and it tied a JSU record held by current Strength and Conditioning coach Gavin Halford.
The Gamecock offense could not claim all of the glory. Senior linebacker Robert Gray returned a fumble from the 1 yard line to for a touchdown.
Samford put the final points on the board on a reverse pass from Karel Hamilton to Tony Philpot with only two minutes remaining. But, it was JSU who had the last laugh as time expired.
Eli Jenkins led the Gamecocks in passing by completing 11-of-19 passes for 115 yards and 1 TD. He added 119 rushing yards and a touchdown.
“I had a pretty good night,” Jenkins said. “I think we had a pretty good game plan. We just stuck with it and the plays just fell into place like we practiced. Coach Grass, he called the plays we just executed. We had a good night.”
DaMarcus James bested his quarterback’s rushing performance with 124 yards and two touchdowns of his own.
Rashad Smith led the Gamecock defense with 8 tackles including 1.5 sacks. He forced one of three fumbles for JSU. Brandon Bender and Ketrick Wolfe forced the other two. Ketrick Wolfe recovered his own forced fumble. Pierre Warren and Robert Gray recovered the other two.