By Daniel Mayes
In their final non-conference test of the season, the Jacksonville State Gamecocks traveled to Lynchburg, Va. and extinguished the Liberty Flames 48-19.
The win increased the Gamecock’s record to 3-1, with their only loss coming at the hands of SEC foe LSU, and gave JSU some positive momentum as they head into Ohio Valley Conference play.
Despite being whistled for 11 penalties compared to Liberty’s 0, Jax State dominated the game on both sides of the ball, amassing 563 yards on offense, including 339 on the ground, and holding Liberty to only 181 total yards on the night.
Jacksonville State struck quickly to start the game, as quarterback Eli Jenkins found a wide-open Roc Thomas on a 51-yard throw to open the scoring and give the Gamecocks a 7-0 lead less than 3 minutes after the opening kickoff.
Thomas racked up 180 total yards for JSU on the night, scoring both a receiving and a rushing touchdown against the Flames’ defense.
After the Flames’ Tyrin Holloway intercepted an errant Jenkins pass, Liberty quarterback Stephen “Buckshot” Calvert led the Flames to a score with 6:23 left in the first, as kicker Alex Probert converted on a field goal to cut the JSU lead to 7-3.
JSU answered almost immediately as Eli Jenkins broke loose for a 76-yard touchdown run.
Jenkins has now piled up 415 rushing yards on the season, trailing only Louisville standout and current Heisman frontrunner Lamar Jackson for most rush-
ing yards by a Division 1 quarterback this season.
Marlon Bridges snagged his first career interception to give JSU the ball with 2:37 left in the half, and Jenkins punched in a 1-yard touchdown run with just over a minute left in the second quarter to give the Gamecocks a 27-3 lead at the half.
JSU would record 2 interceptions in the game as DaQuan James snatched another in the fourth quarter.
Liberty made a brief comeback in the second half as a 59-yard touchdown pass from Calvert to Dante’ Shells cut the JSU lead to 27-10.
The Flames’ hopes were quickly doused as the Gamecocks answered with 2 quick touchdowns.
Roc Thomas scored his second touchdown of the night to make it 34-10, and then a 69-yard strike to Shaq Davidson from Jenkins increased the JSU lead to 41-10.
Davidson’s touchdown catch was the first career receiving touchdown for the LSU transfer.
Liberty got on the board again with a safety and another touchdown before an 87-yard touchdown scamper from JSU’s Justice Owens capped the scoring for the game, making it 48-19 Gamecocks.
Eli Jenkins, Roc Thomas and Josh Barge each earned conference honors for their performances against Liberty.
Jenkins was named Adidas OVC Offensive Player of the Week for the second straight week and the third time overall.
Jenkins lit up the Flames’ defense for 224 yards and 2 touchdowns through the air and 121 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground to lead the Gamecocks to their highest scoring output of the season so far.
Thomas was named Adidas OVC Newcomer of the week for the second consecutive week after rushing for more than 100 yards for the second straight game.
Barge made his first appearance as a player of the week for this season, as he was named Adidas OVC Specialist of the Week thanks in part to a 75-yard punt return for a touchdown in the second quarter.
The return touchdown was the first of Barge’s career and adds another accomplishment to the senior receiver’s already lengthy list.
Jacksonville State has an open date on Oct. 1 and will return to Jacksonville and face Tennessee Tech on Burgess-Snow Field in their OVC opener at 1 p.m. on Oct. 8.
Above L to R: Eli Jenkins, Roc Thomas and Josh Barge, three of JSU’s standout players from Saturday’s game, were given OVC honors on Sunday. (Photos by Matt Reynolds/JSU)