Daniel Mayes, Staff Writer
Replacing a legend can’t be easy.
That’s the unenviable task set upon Jacksonville State Redshirt Junior quarterback Bryant Horn this season after the departure of arguably JSU’s greatest quarterback in Eli Jenkins.
Horn’s task seems even more daunting when you consider that Jenkins’s favorite target and JSU legend in his own right, Josh Barge, is no longer around to ease Horn’s transition.
However, despite all the pressure that comes with being “the guy” as the new starting quarterback, facing a bitter rival and playing on a nationally-televised game on ESPN in his first game to boot, after a 27-13 victory over Tennessee-Chattanooga, Horn is off to a pretty good start.
In a game in which senior running back Roc Thomas, who accumulated 190 all-purpose yards, and the stifling Gamecock defense got most of the headlines and credit for the victory, Horn put forth a solid performance, connecting on 14 of his 20 pass attempts in his first outing, totaling 182 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions.
“[Horn’s] leadership was outstanding from the jump of the game,” said Thomas, who was named FCS Offensive Player of the Week for his performance. “His leadership, his sticking with the plan of the game and his persistence was amazing.”
After a rocky first series in which the Gamecocks went three-and-out, Horn was able to calm his team down on their second possession and led JSU to a field goal, hitting sophomore wide receiver Jamari Hester with a bullet pass over the middle for 14 yards to convert a third down.
“I thought Bryant played really well for his first game,” Coach John Grass said after the victory. “He probably made one bad throw that he forced over the middle.”
That bad throw resulted in the first of his two interceptions, with Horn miss-firing on a pass intended for Shaq Davidson that sailed high and was picked off by UTC’s Kareem Orr.
The short field allowed the Mocs to tie the game at 3-3 after converting on a field goal of their own.
After the interception, Horn quickly bounced back, making smart decisions and leading JSU into scoring range again.
Horn’s second interception then came on a potential touchdown pass late in the second quarter that bounced off the hands of Hester and was swiped by UTC’s Lucas Webb, leaving the score at 10-6 at the break.
“He’s a quiet confident guy,” Coach Grass said of Horn. “Nothing rattles him.”
Horn proved his coach right in the second half, shaking off the two interceptions to lead the Gamecock offense to a 14 play, 67-yard drive on their first possession of the second half, which resulted in another field goal.
After a pick-six from the Gamecock defense made the score 20-6, Horn and the Gamecocks put the game away with a 59-yard touchdown strike hauled in by Davidson late in the third quarter.
Horn’s performance in his first outing will not cause any comparison to the gaudy statistics his predecessor routinely racked up, but, with a weapon like Thomas on the offensive side of the ball and a defensive unit that Coach Grass calls the backbone of the team, Horn showed he doesn’t have to be Eli Jenkins for him, or the Gamecocks as a whole, to be successful.