Preston Odam, Correspondent
Jacksonville State was on the road Saturday, October 2, facing off against a new ASUN rival in the Owls of Kennesaw State. This game was the first time JSU had ever been to Kennesaw’s Fifth Third Bank Stadium. JSU, ranked 17, was beaten 31-6 by Kennesaw State who was ranked number 20 in the FCS polls. This loss also has the Gamecocks sitting at 2-3 for the first time in nearly 15 years.
Kennesaw State’s quarterback, Xavier Shepard, was the star for the Owls. He rushed for three touchdowns on the day with 124 rushing yards on 32 attempts. Shepard completed five of six throws for 72 yards as well. The Owls’ dominant rushing attack led to them possessing the ball for almost 15 more total minutes in the game compared to JSU’s time of possession. Kennesaw State also ran 68 total plays which was 19 more plays than JSU attempted.
JSU head football coach John Grass told Jax State Sports Information, “We couldn’t stop them and get off the field. It’s hard to get ready for what they do in a week and I don’t think we handled it very well. They played great from ahead. We needed to try to make them play from behind and couldn’t do it.”
Kennesaw State only punted once in the game and it was with a little over three minutes left in the game after the victory for the Owls was basically a guarantee. Kennesaw was an impressive 12-of-16 on their third down conversions and converted a fourth down as well. The game was not great from the start for the Gamecocks as they went into the halftime break only having the ball on offense, three possessions and losing 17-0. The Owls scored on their opening drive after nine plays putting them up 7-0. JSU drove down the field in the following series, but Alen Karajic’s 24 yard field goal attempt was blocked by Kennesaw State.
Jacksonville State’s only touchdown came in the third period when quarterback Zerrick Cooper connected with PJ Wells with just under seven minutes remaining in the quarter. This passing touchdown was Cooper’s 66th of his career. Wells scored on a touchdown pass for the second week in a row after this touchdown as well. Cooper completed 19-of-32 with two interceptions thrown. He threw for 212 total yards.
Josh Samuel led the rushing attack for Jacksonville State with 75 total yards in the game. Ahmad Edwards had a solid day receiving for the Gamecocks as he caught nine passes for 67 yards. On the defensive side, Umstead Sanders led the Gamecocks in tackles with 12. Marshall Clark followed closely behind with 11 tackles on the day.
The Gamecocks now look to recover from this game as it was the largest regular season loss to an FCS competitor since the 2013 season. The loss is also the second loss for JSU in a row. Next Saturday, October 9, Stephen F. Austin comes to Burgess-Snow Field for Jacksonville State’s homecoming. The game is set for a 3p.m. kick off. The Gamecocks faced the Lumberjacks of SFA every year between 1996 and 2002. Stephen F. Austin leads the all-time series against JSU 6-31.