Coley Birchfield, Correspondent
When it was announced in January that familiar foes like Kennesaw State, North Alabama and Sam Houston State would become regular football opponents, Jacksonville State fans were ecstatic.
However, the Gamecocks now find themselves with a 3-4 record after the midway point of the season, which hasn’t happened in 15 seasons. The latest loss came on Saturday in Huntsville, Texas against the top-ranked Sam Houston State Bearkats. The Bearkats are the defending Division-IA (FCS) National Champions and showed why by dominating JSU to the tune of 42-7.
The Bearkats were able to contain a Gamecock offense that has been unproductive and inconsistent throughout the season. It is also alarming that Jax State quarterback, Zerrick Cooper, was forced out of the game in the fourth quarter after an apparent injury.
Up until his exit, Cooper had only completed 45 percent of his throws for 169 yards and one interception. The third-year transfer from Clemson has experienced a roller coaster year after aggravating a knee injury in the Florida State victory early in the season.
In his six games of competition this season Cooper has only completed 56 percent of his passes and ranks 56th in the FCS with 1,180 yards through the air while throwing six touchdowns – tied for 72nd in the FCS.
“I thought we came out and played well,” said JSU head coach, John Grass. “But, at the end of the first half and in the third quarter we turned the ball over and gave up too many explosive plays.”
The JSU offense, as a unit, tallied 319 total yards in the game and were successful on 3rd-down 33 percent of the time. The Gamecocks’ offensive system relies on a successful running attack. However, JSU only had 123 yards on the ground. Their leader rusher was Uriah West who picked up 69 yards on just 7 carries, nearly ten yards per carry.
On the opposite sideline, Sam Houston was able use their balanced attack to keep the Jax State defense on their heels. There was just a 7 yard differential between the Bearkats passing and rushing yardage, 235-228.
Sam Houston quarterback, Eric Schmid, was 17/30 through the air for 227 yards and two scores. Schmid’s third quarter touchdowns of 66 yards to Ife Adeyi and 21 yards to Jequez Ezzard extended the lead to 35-7 early in the second half. Schmid was also picked off by Jacksonville-native, Yessman Green, the first interception of his career.
When asked about SHSU’s offensive success, Grass responded, “They have a good football team, and their skill guys didn’t turn the ball over and made plays in space. We weren’t able to do that.”
Jacksonville State committed three turnovers in the game, including two fumbles. The team was also just 1-3 in the red-zone. Comparatively, Sam Houston was 3-3 in their red-zone drives.
This week, JSU will return to Burgess-Snow Field to welcome Central Arkansas. The Bears will also enter the matchup with a 3-4 record and a loss to Sam Houston earlier in the season. Saturday is JSU Preview Day and also will be the celebration of Hall of Fame Weekend.
All Jacksonville State football games will be streaming on ESPN+ to subscribers. Mike Parris and the JSU Sports Network team will also be on your local radio network.