Josie Howell, Sports Editor
Despite taking an early lead in the game, the Gamecock football team fell short five points to UT Martin with a final score of 17-22 on Saturday, Nov. 2.
Jacksonville State has leaned heavily on their strong defense throughout the season, and while they continued to show out in this game, UT Martin’s defense proved to be just as strong.
The Gamecocks started out strong and prevented the Skyhawks from scoring for the entire first half while also putting the first touchdown and extra point on the scoreboard with a 75-yard drive in just three plays. However, in the second quarter, the Skyhawks came back onto the field with a vengeance and did not look back.
UT Martin scored two back-to-back touchdowns with only one successful extra point, one at the six-minute mark and the second one at the one-minute mark. The Gamecocks were able to sneak in one extra touchdown that ran out the clock and put them in the lead by one point with a score of 14-13.
With both team’s strong defenses, the third quarter did not see much action from either team offensively. Eventually, UT Martin broke through JSU’s defense with a 75-yard punt return, with 24-seconds left in the third quarter, which had everyone on the edge of their seat. The Skyhawks then went for a two-point conversion but failed to get the ball in the end zone. This brought the score to 14-19
In the last quarter of the game, neither team were able to put the ball in the end zone, but instead both teams put a field goal on the board. Eventually, after much back and forth, the game came to a close. This game brought the Gamecocks overall record to 6-4 and their OVC record to 3-3.
“It was a tough loss – I thought we put a lot into that game. We knew the importance of that game going in and our bunch battled. You have to take your hat off to Coach Simpson and UT Martin and it is always a great game with them every year. It has been a possession ball game if you go back throughout the years. They are well-coached and have a really good football players,” said John Grass, JSU’s head coach. “We have to work harder to find answers and nobody is excited about losing that game on Saturday. We have not been in this position, so I think it is very important for our seniors in the program to get a win this week on the road against a very good Tennessee Tech team.”
In this match, the Gamecocks saw wide receiver KJ Stepherson bring in over 100-yards for the Gamecocks, this being his first game to do so. Starting quarterback Zerrick Cooper continued to add to his personal record of total yards by bringing in 240-yards against UT Martin, he currently has a total of 2,781 yards for this season and over 6,000 for his career.
The Gamecocks also saw Jamari Hester record 61 receiving yards against the Skyhawks. This brought Hester to a career total of 2,155 receiving yards. He is now third on the school’s list of career receiving yards. Hester is one of only three previous players in school history with over 2,000 receiving yards in a career.
“In the last three to four weeks, this football team has really made a lot of improvement. We are playing better at the line of scrimmage. We play two or three of those types of games where it’s a possession game and we have always been able to make enough plays to win those games. We just didn’t do that on Saturday,” said Grass.
The Gamecocks will travel to Cookeville, Tennessee Saturday, Nov. 9 to play Tennessee Tech. Kick-off will begin at 1:30 p.m. Fans can tune in to the game on ESPN plus, or they can listen to the game on the JSU Radio Network.