Timothy Cash, Sports Editor
After a slow offensive start on Saturday, Jacksonville State’s defense led the Gamecocks to a 31-10 win over Liberty in a record-breaking home opener at Burgess-Snow Field.
Jacksonville State (2-1) hosted 23,944 fans on Saturday, breaking the previous record of 23,692, set during the 2015 postseason when JSU topped Sam Houston 62-10.
“This was a really good atmosphere,” head coach John Grass said. “After the lightning delay we were worried who all would stick with it, and if it was going to rain or not. It was just awesome, and what a great night for Jacksonville State.”
As always, Marlon Bridges and the rest of the Gamecocks’ defense wreaked havoc on the opposing team, breaking up 25 of the Flames 47 pass attempts, forcing two sacks and an interception.
Midway through the third quarter, Bridges intercepted Liberty’s Stephen Calvert and returned the ball 34 yards to the Flame’s 15-yard line.
“I was thinking score the whole way,” Bridges said. “I probably should have stayed behind my (blocker), but I decided to cut in.”
Although Bridges was stopped short of the goal line, he set quarterback Kendrick Doss up for a quick 15-yard touchdown run, the first of his career at Jax State.
Offensively, the Gamecocks utilized a dual-quarterback option against Liberty, featuring Doss and starting quarterback Bryant Horn.
“I thought it worked well,” Horn said. “I thought they rotated us good. We both had good drives, and we both had stall outs. It’s more about what we do when we get the opportunities. I fell like we both played a good game, and we both made plays.”
Jacksonville State’s offense was held to a mere 29 yards in the first quarter, and only converted one first-down. However, the offense came alive during the second quarter of play when Trae Berry caught an 80-yard touchdown from Horn. This was a turning point for the Gamecocks, who finished with 385 offensive yards.
Horn completed nine of 19 passing attempts for 181 yards, while Doss completed eight of ten attempts for 64 yards. Doss also rushed for 32 yards with a touchdown.
Roc Thomas led the Gamecocks’ ground game with 87 yards and two touchdowns.
Barry’s 80 yards led JSU’s receivers, while Demontez Terry followed with 54 yards. Shaq Davidson and Krenwick Sanders both recorded 37 yards apiece.
Cade Stinnett completed a career-long 49-yard field goal and was perfect on four PAT attempts.
Liberty (3-1) scored the first points of the game when Alex Probert made a 28-yard field goal in the first quarter. The Flames’ touchdown came midway through the third when Calvert connected with BJ Farrow for a 65-yard score.
Jacksonville State is now finished with the non-conference portion of their regular season, and can now turn their attention solely to the Ohio Valley Conference.
The Gamecocks travel to Cookeville, Tenn. this Saturday to take on the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles (0-4). Kickoff is at 6 p.m. CT, and the game can be streamed on the OVC Digital Network, or heard on WLJS.