Coley Birchfield, Correspondent
Jacksonville State won their first round matchup of the NCAA Division I Football Championship against the Davidson Wildcats on Saturday, 49-14.
The win means the Gamecocks have a chance to be at Burgess-Snow Field again next weekend, for a second round matchup against the winner of Delaware-Sacred Heart.
Saturday’s game was highlighted by Zion Webb who accounted for more than 300 all-purpose yards. The All-OVC First Team Quarterback compiled 239 yards passing and a 67-yard run to set up a touchdown in the first quarter.
“In our quarterback room we just have a bad memory,” said Webb when asked about his first half interception. “If something happens to us and we don’t like the situation, we just have to bounce back from it and do better.” That way of thinking was evident in the game, as JSU scored 42 points from that point on.
The dynamic rushing duo of Uriah West and Josh Samuel, once again, impressed for the Gamecocks. West ended the day with 76 yards on the ground and two touchdowns and Samuel had a score of his own to go with 66 yards rushing.
The Gamecocks defense had their streak of allowing less than 100 yards rushing end at nine games. Davidson finished with 202 yards on the ground, but needed 64 attempts to do so. JSU’s offensive attack was able to top that number, 222 yards, with only 28 rushing attempts.
In the middle of a day filled with positives, there were also needed areas of improvement. One of those being penalties, an area where JSU has seen struggles throughout the season. JSU was penalized eight times in the first three quarters, five of those being offsides.
In order for the Gamecocks to advance next week and continue to fight for a title, the team will need to straighten out small mistakes that could be detrimental if an opponent is able to take over the game.
Before Saturday, Davidson had never seen the field during the postseason. The Wildcats captured their first Pioneer Football League championship, and as a result, their first FCS playoff appearance.
The university only has 1,900 enrolled students and they play in a non-scholarship conference, so being able to have success speaks to the leadership of their coaches and upper-class players.
“We knew that this year would be a measuring stick for us,” said Davidson Head Coach Scott Abell after the game. “We’re a real young team … and we’re excited about our future.”
Jax State, however, is familiar with the pressure of a national championship opportunity.
The Gamecocks are in the FCS playoffs for the 10th time in program history, the most impressive of those coming with a championship loss to North Dakota State in the 2015 season.
Head Coach John Grass has been at the helm for six of those seasons and compiled an even 5-5 record in playoff games. However, his players are not as experienced as himself.
“We have a young football team,” Grass said, “…getting a home win was important for our team and important for our guys.”
The status of next weekend’s opponent, time and location have not been confirmed by the NCAA. One thing guaranteed is that the Gamecocks will face either Delaware or Sacred Heart, whose contest kicks off later today.
For now, fans are celebrating the return of Saturday football at JSU. Although the time of year is different, the result is still the same: an impressive offensive outing with a dominating win.