Jacksonville State narrowly edged the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga on Saturday, winning 23-20 with a late touchdown in a back-and-forth contest.
The defending Ohio Valley Conference champion Gamecocks traveled to The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga to face the Mocs for their first game of the regular season.
In his second season, JSU’s head football coach John Grass, and the rest of the Gamecock football program, were ready to unveil on what they had worked all offseason to get ready for this moment: starting the season against another FCS top 10 school.
Last season, JSU went 8-0 in OVC play to win their first outright-conference championship since 2004, and only had one loss during the regular season.
However, Sam Houston State was too much for the Gamecocks to handle, and they were booted from the FCS playoff in the second round.
The Gamecocks hope to relive their regular-season dominance over the OVC, and have a stronger footprint in the post season.
The Gamecocks were able to prove to the fans that they were worthy of their preseason No. 9 position by proving they had what it takes to keep-up with and hold-off No. 8 Chattanooga.
Eli Jenkins ended the day with 16 completions for 116 yards and one touchdown. He also rushed for 47 yards.
Troymaine Pope rushed for 180 yards, averaging 11.5 yards per carry.
Josh Clemons rushed for 67 yards, and averaged 8.1 yards per carry.
Miles Jones rushed for ten yards, and had a touchdown.
Josh Barge received 52 yards with a long of 18 yards. Gonzalez received 40 yards with a long of 13, and Dalton Screws received 17 yards.
On the defensive side of the ball, Brandon Bender had seven tackles, two for a loss, and a sack.
Joel McCandless had six
tackles, two for a loss, and a sack. Jermaine Hough had four
tackles, one for a loss, and a sack.
The reigning Southern Conference champions, Chattanooga, were first on the board at Finley Stadium. A 62-yard, 10-play opening drive led to the Mocs’ Henrique Riberio kicking a 30-yard field goal.
The Gamecocks too, managed to score a field goal on their opening drive. JSU went 66 yards on 5 plays before a 34-yard kick by redshirt-sophomore Connor Rouleau split the uprights, and tied the game.
With two minutes left in the first quarter, Chattanooga quarterback Jacob Huesman, ran seven yards for a touchdown.
With a four-yard pass from preseason All-OVC, and last season first team All-OVC, Jenkins, senior wide receiver Gonzalez scored a touchdown that allowed Rouleau to once again tie the contest.
The Gamecocks did not allow the Mocs to put any points on the board during the second quarter.
The third quarter saw Jacksonville State take their first lead of the day. Rouleau split the uprights for three points for the second time.
After 11-plays and 57-yards, the Gamecocks were up 13-10.
Then, Chattanooga brought on the fourth tie of the afternoon by marching 59-yards on 12-plays that set up a successful 33-yard field-goal by Riberio.
The Gamecocks once
again regained the lead early in the fourth quarter.
Rouleau was successful for his third field-goal of the game. Jacksonville State marched 56-yards on 12-plays to bring the score to 16-13.
Chattanooga’s Montrell Pardue was able to strip the ball from JSU’s Pope, causing a fumble. Pardue was then able to run the ball back for a 55-yard Mocs touchdown. After Riberio’s good PAT, Chattanooga led 20-16 with eight minutes left in the contest.
The Gamecocks never gave up, and going 79-yards on only 10-plays, twice having to convert on fourth-down, senior running back Jones was able to go one-yard for a touchdown.
After another successful kick by Rouleau, the Gamecocks once again took the lead with 2:41 left in the game. JSU was then able to hold the Mocs from scoring, and went on to win.
The Gamecocks had 17 first downs compared to Chattanooga’s 11. JSU had 411 total yards of offense, while the Mocks had 196. JSU held the ball for 34:21, while Chattanooga only had 25:39 minutes of possession.
The Gamecocks will now face the Auburn Tigers (1-0).
JSU will travel to Auburn, Ala., on Sept. 12, to face the Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium for the first meeting ever between the in-state programs.
The Gamecocks will return to Burgess-Snow Field for their first home game of the season at JSU Stadium on Sept. 19, when they open up conference play against the Tennessee State Tigers.