Daniel Mayes, Editor-in-Chief
The streak has been snapped.
After nearly five years and 36 straight Ohio Valley Conference wins, the Jacksonville State Football team finally lost a conference game, ending their run with a 37-14 loss at Southeast Missouri State on Saturday.
The Gamecocks were just three wins shy of tying the mark of 39 conference wins in a row by Duquesne in the MAAC from 1999-2006, which is the FCS record.
The Gamecocks’ streak started on November 23, 2013 with a win over SEMO, and the Redhawks brought an end to the streak that saw its beginnings against them.
It took turnovers and special teams mistakes for JSU’s streak to come tumbling down.
“You have five turnovers and a blocked field goal for a touchdown,” Coach John Grass said. “You just can’t win games doing that.”
The blocked field goal came early in the second quarter, with a Stinnett field goal attempt that would have given the Gamecocks the lead at 10-0. Instead, SEMO seized the lead and the momentum, turning a 14-7 game into 30-7 by the end of the third.
Quarterback Zerrick Cooper threw for 323 yards and two touchdowns as the Gamecocks made their comeback attempt, but also threw three costly interceptions.
“It’s pretty amazing that we’ve played well enough to win 36 in a row.” Grass said at his press conference on Monday. “The reason I don’t talk about it ever is it doesn’t affect this football team. The streak has nothing to do with how we play. If we grow as much from this loss as we did from the opening loss of the year, then this team is going to play a lot more football.”
Saturday’s loss is the first conference defeat for Grass since he took the helm at Jacksonville State beginning in the 2014 season. Grass was the Offensive Coordinator on the Bill Clark-led 2013 squad that last lost to Jimmy Garoppolo and the Eastern Illinois Panthers 52-14 on November 16, 2013. Grass and current Assistant Head Football Coach Jimmy Ogle are the only individuals—staff members or players—that were at JSU in their current capacity during the last loss.
Saturday’s loss puts the Gamecocks’ other notable OVC streak, their four straight conference championships, in jeopardy.
Murray State currently leads the OVC with their 4-0 conference record, and SEMO joins JSU with one OVC loss. The Redhawks will hold a tiebreaker over JSU with the head-to-head win, however. The Gamecocks will likely need to win the remainder of their games and have SEMO drop another game for the “five-peat” to happen.
The Gamecocks start their post-streak life with a road game at OVC-leading Murray State this Saturday. Kickoff against the Racers is at 3 p.m.
For the first time in the John Grass Era in Jacksonville, it’s do-or-die time in the OVC.