By Rebekah Hawkins
The Gamecocks grabbed their fifth straight victory on the back of their defense Saturday against Eastern Kentucky 24-7.
The Gamecocks’ defense shined with five interceptions, three of which returned touchdowns. They amassed 351 yards of total offense. 122 yards came off of Eli Jenkins’ arm and 25 of the other 229 yards came off his legs. Josh Clemons had an impressive day rushing for 149 yards on 26 carries. Josh Barge continued to shine with six receptions for 72 yards.
Above: Quarterback Eli Jenkins (left) threw for 122 yds and rushed for an additional 25 yds against EKU. He threw one interception during the game. Josh Clemons (center) rushed for 149 yds on 26 carries. Josh Barge (right) made a catch in his 45th consecutive game, tying the FCS record. (photos by Matt Reynolds/JSU)
The Gamecocks started a promising drive to lead into the second quarter but two incomplete passes and a declined penalty later and the Gamecocks were punting again.
The Colonels took over with 10:11 left in the half. The Gamecocks’ Jaylen Hill committed a holding penalty that helped move the Colonels down field. A quick 16-yard run gave them more momentum. They slowed after a six-yard loss and ended up at 3rd and 16. Bennie Coney threw his first interception of the game to Joel McCandless and it was returned 41 yards for the first touchdown of the game. The Gamecocks led 7-0.
On kickoff the Colonels returned the ball for 34 yards but were unable to make anything else out of the drive. The Gamecocks had a 41-yard Stinnett field goal blocked on their next drive which gave the ball back to EKU. Bennie Coney threw another interception to Marlon Bridges but it was only returned for one yard.
Moments later Eli Jenkins would hand the ball back to EKU with his first and only interception of the game. With 39 seconds left in the half, Coney threw his third interception this time into the hands of Hill. He returned it 60 yards to the end zone to put the Gamecocks up 14-0 going into the half.
The second half opened with punts on both team’s possessions. Stinnett finally managed to get a 25-yard field goal to connect for the Gamecocks’ only non-defensive points of the game. The Gamecocks were in the lead 17-0.
EKU drove down and scored their first and only touchdown of the game on their next possession off of a Tyler Swafford pass.
The Gamecocks led 17-7 as they headed into the 4th quarter. Swafford had his first interception of the game during EKU’s second possession of the quarter. This time it was Reggie Hall who took it 88 yards to the house. The Gamecocks increased their lead 24-7.
EKU tried one more time for something but Swafford threw his second interception to Hill who effectively ended the game. The Gamecocks ran the clock out and took their victory 24-7.
The Gamecocks sit atop the OVC standings with their perfect 3-0 conference record. They play Eastern Illinois on Oct. 29 for homecoming.