Josie Howell, Sports Editor
In 2018, it was announced that old time rivals, Jacksonville State University and the University of North Alabama, would once again play each other in football. This is a rivalry that dates back to 1949 and has often times been compared to the longstanding Alabama-Auburn rivalry. After not playing for two years, both teams came to a four-year agreement that both players and fans are excited about. This is a game that has always seen a 20,000 plus crowd and the same can be expected for the 2019 season as JSU hosts UNA.
This new contract between the two teams comes after UNA switched from playing in the Division II Gulf South Conference to now playing in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision, the same conference that Jacksonville State is a part of.
“The two times we’ve played them, was the largest crowds that we have ever had. So, we need to play them. It’s the old south rivalry. You bring those back and people pack it out,” said John Grass, JSU head football coach. “They have a great historical program and you’ll have a 20,000 plus crowd there, so that game will be a lot of fun.”
One of North Alabama’s last game against an FCS opponent was against Jacksonville State in 2016, with a 31-12 loss. The last time the Lions won over Jacksonville State was in 2003 with a score of 28-16. The lions had a 13-1 season that ended with a loss in the semifinals of the Division II playoffs. JSU, on the other hand, went on to win the Ohio Valley Conference Championship.
The first matchup between the two teams will be at Jacksonville State’s Burgess Snow Stadium on Sept. 21, 2019. The Gamecocks will then travel to Florence to take on the Lions at Braly Stadium on September 12, 2020. The two schools will meet against in Jacksonville in 2021 and then once again in Florence in 2022.The 2020 Matchup will be JSU’s first game in Florence since winning the 1992 Division II National Championship at Braly Stadium.
The Lions have returning starters from last year that will have an impact on the matchup between the two teams. One of those players is starting quarterback Christian Lopez. According to the UNA athletics website, Lopez threw for 2,184 yards and 14 touchdowns for the 2018 season. He also was able to rush a total of five touchdowns.
UNA’s running back, Terence Humphrey, also played an integral role in last year’s season and is also expected to make a huge impact for the Lions this season. According to UNA’s athletics page, Humphrey is one of UNA’s leading rushers, who carried the ball 67 times and accounted for 290 yards in the 2018 season and with a career total of 467 yards, with an average of 4.5 yards per carry.
For the Lion’s defense, K.J. Smith will play a major role. Smith played in all 10 games in 2018. He finished third on his team in tackles with 49 total tackles. Smith also accounted for three tackles for loss of six yards, three interceptions that he returned 79 yards and five pass break-ups.
One of JSU’s main players that the team and fans hope to see a lot out of for not just this game, but for the entire season, is Clemson transfer and starting quarterback Zerrick Cooper. Cooper accounted for well over 3,000 passing yards in the 2018 season and had an impressive 251 first pass completions.
Jacksonville State University will host the University of North Alabama at Burgess Snow Field September 21 at 6 p.m. To stay up to date on what is happening with the JSU gamecocks football team, you can follow them on twitter at “JSUGamecocksFB” and on Facebook at Jacksonville State Gamecocks.
Photo courtesy of JSU