Preston Odam, Correspondent
Jacksonville State hosted former conference nemesis UT Martin in a contest where the Skyhawks of Martin pulled off a shocking upset winning 34-31 on Saturday, September 25. This was Jacksonville State’s first loss at home to UT Martin since 1987. The loss ended the Gamecocks’ two game winning streak.
Senior JSU quarterback Zerrick Cooper, who did not play against North Alabama the week prior due to injury, threw for 318 yards on 24 completions with two touchdown passes continuing to add to his school record for passing touchdowns. Cooper also led the Gamecocks in rushing with 37 yards. He scored on a rushing touchdown with a little over five minutes left in the contest to bring the score within three. In the game, no other back had more than 29 yards for JSU. In fact, the Skyhawks held Jax State to only 91 total yards rushing as a team.
“I thought UT Martin played well in the fourth quarter and came up with explosive plays. They have a good football team. They proved how explosive their offense was in the second half. In the first half we didn’t get enough points out of the drives we had,” JSU head coach John Grass told Jax State Sports Information. “Our inability to score in the red zone hurt us all day. It goes back to controlling the line of scrimmage. We knew we were going to have to throw it more today than we normally do because they load the box up. In the red zone you have to be able to run the ball and we couldn’t do that today.”
In UT Martin’s opening drive, JSU’s defense was able to force a turnover that the defense took to the endzone. George Steele caused the Skyhawk’s quarterback Keon Howard to fumble the ball on a sack in the backfield. Defensive end Jaylen Swain scooped the ball and scored for the Gamecocks for his second defensive touchdown in the past two weeks. Against North Alabama Swain added a pick six.
The offense for the Gamecocks drove down the field in a seven play drive to push the lead to 14-0. The scoring play was a nine-yard touchdown pass from Cooper to receiver Ahmad Edwards. Edwards put up a career high of six catches in the game for 87 total yards. This was Cooper’s 64th passing touchdown in his prestigious JSU football career.
PJ Wells would later catch Cooper’s 65th passing touchdown in the third quarter on a 30 yard connection that extended JSU’s lead to 24-13. This was Wells’ first scoring reception in his young redshirt freshman career. Wells led the Gamecocks with 93 total yards on six receptions.
Keon Howard led the Skyhawks to victory with three touchdown passes on three straight UT Martin drives in the fourth quarter. For the game, UT Martin accumulated 426 yards while JSU had 409. This is the third time in four games in which JSU’s opponent has had 400 or more yards of total offense.
Next Saturday, Jax State looks to bounce back as they travel to Kennesaw State. Jacksonville State will be seeing plenty of Kennesaw State in the near future as they are joining the ASUN next fall. The game is set for a 2 p.m. central time kick off.