The topped-ranked Jacksonville State Gamecocks (7-1, 5-0 OVC) handed the Eastern Kentucky Colonels (5-3, 4-1 OVC) their third loss with a 34-0 shutout on Saturday. It was a dreary day inside the JSU Stadium.
More than 21,000 fans came to watch Jacksonville State’s homecoming game against the 13th ranked Colonels. Many expected to see a matchup that would remind them of the season opener against Chattanooga or the ‘Scare in Jordan-Hare.’
What happened on the field, however, was the result of a well-oiled Gamecock team.
Eli Jenkins had 23 completions for 324 yards, two touchdowns and 18 rushing yards. Miles Jones had 18 rushes for 110 yards with a long of 38 yards. Troymaine Pope had 14 rushes for 37 yards including a touchdown. Josh Barge had nine receptions for 158 yards including two touchdowns. Markis Merrill had five receptions for 101 yards and a long of 42 yards. Spencer Goffigan had two receptions for 28 yards. Connor Rouleau made two field goals on three attempts, and had a long of 41 yards.
On the defensive side of the ball, Joel McCandless had 10 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss. Brandon Bender had seven tackles, two that were for a loss and one half a sack. Dawson Wells had six tackles and an interception that led to a touchdown.
JSU would not allow the Colonels to do anything. After seven plays on their opening drive, Eastern Kentucky was forced to punt the ball to the Gamecocks.
On the next series, Jenkins was able to connect with Barge three times for a total of 57 yards, including a 14-yard touchdown reception.
Early in the second quarter, Eastern Kentucky’s Jeffery Canady forced Jenkins to fumble on a one-yard run that was recovered by the Colonels. On the very next play, however, Wells intercepted Colonel quarterback Bennie Coney, and was able to run it back 48 yards for a touchdown.
After another short Eastern Kentucky possession, the ball was back in the hands of Jacksonville State’s offense. In just two plays, Merrill was able to go 50 yards to get the ball down to the Colonels 20 yard line.
A few plays later, Pope was then able to reach the end zone on a one-yard rush. With only 13 seconds left in the half, a 41- yard field goal by Rouleau gave the Gamecocks their third score of the quarter.
Late in the third quarter, Jenkins and Barge were able to connect again for 56 yards in only two plays that included a 26-yard reception that brought on Jacksonville State’s fourth and final touchdown of the contest.
In the fourth, Christian LeMay, Dalton Etheridge and Jones all worked together to set up Rouleau for his second good field goal of the afternoon.
The Gamecocks are now No. 1 in the FCS STATS Poll as well as the FCS Coaches’ Poll. This is the first time in school history where the Gamecocks are No. 1 in both polls.
They will now hit the road for the final time this regular season when they travel to Charleston, Ill. to take on the Eastern Illinois Panthers.
The Panthers have an overall record of 5-3, but are perfect in conference play.