Stephen Duke, Correspondent
In what has been a wild and historic season, Jacksonville State’s football team is leaving the Ohio Valley Conference on top, winning their ninth title in their 18-year stay in the league after defeating Murray State 28-14 Sunday.
The Gamecocks got off to a fast start to the game with two first-quarter runs of eleven yards and one yard, respectively, to put the Gamecocks up 14-0. This touchdown was set up by a 39-yard pass from Zion Webb to Trae Barry early in the drive.
Murray State cut the lead in half with a 30-yard touchdown pass late in the first quarter, cutting the lead to 14-7.
The Gamecocks weren’t done yet, however. The Gamecocks once again went up by two touchdowns in the second quarter on a one-yard run from Josh Samuel, which capped a 14-play, 74-yard drive, giving the Gamecocks a 21-7 lead at the half.
The Webb-Cooper connection continued in the second half and proved to be very effective as Barry caught an 18-yard scoring toss from Webb in the third quarter to give the Gamecocks a 28-7 lead and all the cushion they would need to ensure they were hoisting the OVC trophy.
Murray State would put together a drive in the fourth to make the score a little more respectable, but the Gamecocks took the game 28-14, putting them back on top of the OVC. With the win, the Gamecocks have punched a ticket for an automatic bid in the FCS playoff field.
Barry finished the game 101 yards on four receptions, his first 100-yard performance since the North Alabama game on October 17, 2020.
He also caught his first touchdown pass since 2019. As a result of their play this week, quarterback Zion Webb won OVC Offensive Player of the Week, while Nicario Harper won OVC Newcomer of the Week honors.
For the Gamecocks, this is the sixth OVC title in head coach John Grass’s seven-year tenure and their ninth overall in their time in the conference.
It will also be their final OVC title, as they will be moving to the ASUN alongside Eastern Kentucky in July.
For the fall 2021 schedule, some members of the ASUN have teamed up with members of the Western Athletic Conference to have a “conference challenge.” The winner will be given an automatic bid to the FCS Playoff field for the fall.