Jax State defeats rival UNA

Gamecocks No. 22 carries ball past UNA defense.Jacksonville State knocked off UNA 30-12 before a crowd of 21,976 at Burgess-Snow Field. (Courtesy of Matt Reynolds/JSU)

Garrett Sanders, Sports Correspondent

Momentum for the Jacksonville State University Gamecocks football team was replenished after moving back into the Top 10 in the FCS Top 25 Poll. For JSU, they looked to continue the hype by beating rival North Alabama.

North Alabama and Jacksonville State have a long traditional rivalry. However, after playing each other 46 times since 1949 but only three times since 1991, something had to change.

“UNA and Jacksonville State has always been a healthy rivalry,” said JSU head coach John Grass. 

The crowd of 21,976 people was evidence of what this rivalry means to the two programs. The two programs are scheduled to meet for three more seasons.

Getting the first points on the board was crucial. JSU held on to the ball for over seven minutes and converted a fourth down. This possession set up JSU for a scoring opportunity.

Zerrick Cooper threw a pass down the right sideline to Josh Pearson. The ball traveled in the air and ricocheted off a North Alabama corner. Pearson was on the ball at the right time. The bounce of the ball landed in Pearson’s hands for six. With that score and successful extra point from Bryant Wallace, the Gamecocks took the lead.

UNA then put up an eight-play drive to set up a one-yard touchdown run from Terence Humphrey. However, the Lions kicker Joe Gurley missed the extra point. With that, the Gamecocks still had control of the lead 7-6.

With the next offensive possession for the Gamecocks, the offense moved the ball down with ease. With Cooper under center, Greenery took off and burst through and slipped off a couple of Lions tacklers for six. Greene’s touchdown was followed up by yet another missed extra point.

Bryant Wallace, however, would be given a second chance. After a muffed kickoff from the Lions and a poorly executed effort to pounce on the ball, JSU had excellent field position.

Wallace then connected on a 27-yarder to put the Gamecocks up by 10. That’s when the game for the Lions quickly turned away from them.

The Lions had a quick possession which resulted in a punt giving back the Gamecocks possession of the ball.

Cooper executed a perfect play-action pass and threw the ball deep down the field. Pearson caught the ball in the stride and ran with the ball into the end zone for six with an extra point added from Bryant Wallace. Afterwards, the game was back and forth, producing no points for some time.

North Alabama eventually put up a drive that was set up to be a sure score. However, JSU got the play they needed to prevent UNA from scoring. Lions quarterback, Christian Lopez, snapped the ball and forced the ball into triple coverage.

Traco Williams ball hawked to the bell and intercepted the pass.

The Lions and Gamecocks exchanged possessions throughout the third quarter. After a dull part of the third quarter, there was finally some excitement. However, that excitement wasn’t for the home crowd.

North Alabama consistently moved the chains and had moved into the red zone. Christian Lopez then connected to his favorite target, Andre Little, on a fifteen-yard score. Joe Gurley missed the extra point.

The Lions later got going with a decent drive. However, facing a fourth down in Gamecock territory, Joe Gurley for the Lions had to kick.

Missing two extra points, it was evident that Gurley was not having a great game. The Lions had a chance to make the game a one-score game. However, with a long field goal of 48 yards, Gurley missed.

That’s when Zerrick Cooper and Josh Pearson knew it was time to put the game to an end. The first catch was a first down for twelve yards on a stick route.

Cooper then executed a perfect play-action pass, and Pearson was open on the slant. Pearson caught the ball, and the rest was history. Fifty-three yards to the end zone for six. As a result, the end of the game would be a Gamecock victory of 30-12.

“This was a good win. Give credit to UNA for having a good program as they always have, going back to our old rivalry game. This was a solid win for our guys,” said Grass.

Josh Pearson had a total of seven receptions for 149 yards and three touchdowns. It was apparent he would be more-heavily covered.

“Teams have definitely been covering me more this year. In order to be the best, you have to play like you’re the best.” Pearson commented.

The Gamecocks will be traveling up to Clarksville, Tennessee to take on the Austin Peay Governors Saturday, Sept. 28 at 2 p.m. Fans can tune in to the game on 91.9 WLJS to listen to Mike Parris or watch it live on ESPN+ this Saturday.

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