Gamecocks face old foe Chattanooga to open the season

With a rivalry dating back to 1904, Chattanooga is no stranger to Jacksonville State. The Gamecocks will travel to Chattanooga to take on the Mocs at 5 p.m CT. JSU opens the season defending their 2014 OVC Championship with the No. 7/No. 9 rank in the FCS Polls. Chattanooga will also be defending their SOCON Championship being the No. 8 team in both polls. This will mark the first time both JSU and UTC have both been in the top 10 when they have met on the gridiron.

JSU will travel to Finley Stadium in back-to-back years with the Gamecocks being victorious last year winning 26-23 in overtime against the Mocs. Quarterback Eli Jenkins scored on a 13-yard run to win the game in overtime. The Gamecock defense held the Mocs offense to five yards and zero first downs in last year’s matchup.

This year’s Gamecocks bring back 19 starters returning from the 2014 Ohio Valley Conference Championship team, including nine on offense, seven on defense and three on special teams.

Twelve of those players were named to the preseason All-OVC team, making up 40 percent of the 29-player list.

Senior Devaunte Sigler, who was the 2014 OVC Defensive Player of the Year, was named pre-season Defensive Player of the Year. On offense; Eli Jenkins, Josh Barge, Bo Brummel, Casey Dunn, Justin Lea, and Adam Wright were on the list. Defensively, the Gamecocks placed Sigler, LaMichael Fanning, Chris Landrum Sr., Jermaine Hough, and DeBarriaus Miller. Hamish McInnes also made the list at specialist.

The Gamecocks look to build on there 2014 season after they went 10-2 losing to Sam Houston State in the second round of the FCS Playoffs. With the heartbreaking playoff loss behind them, the Gamecocks look to replace three senior leaders: RB Demarcus James, C Max Holcombe, and MLB Ben Endress. James, who was the main rusher on last year’s three headed monster of JSU running backs, will be replaced by Troymaine Pope, Miles Jones, and Kentucky Graduate transfer Josh Clemons. Casey Dunn will move from tackle to center to replace 2014 All-American Max Holcombe. Dawson Wells will take over full-time at middle linebacker to replace Ben Endress. Junior college transfer Joel McCandless will start at linebacker also replacing Michael Carlisle, who also played a big role at linebacker for the Gamecocks.

Good news for Gamecock fans, offensively, not a lot changed. Junior Eli Jenkins returns as the starting quarterback for his third season. Junior wide receiver Josh Barge’s career at JSU is off to an unprecedented start. His first two seasons have seen success no other JSU wideout has enjoyed. His 885 receiving yards as a freshman in 2013 are fourth-most in a season in school history, just behind his 919 in 2014 that are third on that list. His 56 catches in 2014 are fifth-most in school history, while his 58 in 2013 are tied for third-most in a season at JSU.

All of the JSU receivers and tight ends return, with Spencer Goffigan being granted another year of eligibility. There will also be no new faces on the offensive line.

Defensively, transfer McCandless will be the only starter on defense that did not see playing time last year for the Gamecocks.

This will be the 39th meeting between the Gamecocks and Mocs, with UTC holding a 26-12 advantage in the all-time series. JSU has won seven of the last nine, including two in a row. Coach John Grass won his first game as a head coach last year against the Mocs.

This is the 111th year of Jacksonville State football. The game will be streamed on the SoCon Digital Network and can be heard on the JSU Radio Network with Mike Parris and Ray Hammett.

 Dillon Floyd
Staff Writer

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