Preston Odam, Correspondent
Jacksonville State was able to tame the Lions of North Alabama in a 27-24 victory Saturday, September 18, in the Gamecocks’ home opener. This victory moved the number 10 ranked Gamecocks to 2-1 on the season.
The game was a tough victory for JSU, but the 100-yard scoop and score by Malik Feaster changed the momentum which eventually led to a win. The Feaster fumble recovery was the first time in FCS history that a fumble was recovered and returned for a touchdown. The fumble recovery also broke the school record for longest fumble recovery. The previous record of 98-yards was held by Eugene Grieg for 59 years until Feaster was able to break it.
The fumble was recovered on a drive that was extremely promising for UNA. The Lions were pushing the ball downfield and looking to add to the 10-6 lead they had on JSU at the time. Marshall Clark hit UNA’s running back Parker Driggers, knocking the ball loose. Feaster recovered the ball seven yards deep in the opponent’s end zone.
“I ran and I scooped it and started running,” Feaster said about his fumble recovery. “I scanned across the field and I saw No. 16 (UNA’s Takairee Kenebrew) running toward me at an angle and I just hoped somebody was going to pick him up because I was running out of gas.”
Head coach of the Gamecocks, John Grass, told Jax State Sports Information, “After the kind of week we had, missing some key guys, to get a win any way we can – I’m very pleased with that. We knew UNA was going to come in here ready to play and they did.”
The Feaster fumble recovery happened in the last minute of the 2nd quarter. In the 3rd quarter the JSU defense added another turnover and touchdown when Jaylen Swain intercepted a pass by UNA’s quarterback, Blake Dever, extending the lead to 20-10 with just under seven minutes left in the quarter.
Zerrick Cooper, the usual starter at quarterback for JSU, dressed out but did not play. Freshman quarterback Matthew Caldwell got his number called for starter this week. Caldwell scored his first career touchdown on an 8 yard scramble increasing the Gamecock lead to 27-17 in the 4th quarter.
Caldwell was able to complete 10 of his 19 passing attempts for a total of 98 yards along with his 27 yards of rushing. Josh Samuel led the Gamecock rushing attack with 107 yards in the game. Ron Wiggins, the former Jacksonville High School star, rushed for 54 yards on his seven carries. Matt LaRoche tacked on 23 yards rushing as well. Markail Benton led the JSU defense in tackels with seven.
UT Martin comes to Burgess-Snow Field next Saturday. The game is set for a 3 p.m. kickoff. The Gamecocks will face this former conference foe in their 43rd game against one another. JSU leads the all-time series 34-8 against UT Martin, including a victory at Martin, Tennessee last March.