Tag: FCS Playoffs

Battle of the birds: JSU hosts Kennesaw State in the FCS second round action

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Roc Thomas (6) and the JSU Football Team head into the first round of the FCS playoffs after a well-earned week of rest (Matt Reynolds/JSU)

Timothy Cash, Sports Editor

If Jacksonville State’s football team had to choose what they liked best about their No. 3 seed in the playoff, most of the guys would say it is the respect they got from the Championship Committee. Then, they would probably say the bye week. After having two early bye weeks at the beginning of the season, the Gamecocks had to tackle then No. 16 Liberty and their OVC schedule without a break.

“It is good to be going in to the playoffs and it was great having the bye week,” head coach John Grass said at Monday’s press conference. “We were mentally and physically tired after nine-straight games, so it was good to get that time off and keep our game speed.”

With the Gamecocks’ last regular season game, a 36-6 win over Tennessee State, on a Thursday, Jacksonville State actually got almost a week and a half to rest up for their second-round matchup against Kennesaw State.

Kennesaw State (11-1) is making their first appearance to the playoffs in only their third year fielding a football team.

“They are probably the hottest team in the country with 11-straight wins, which is really impressive,” Senior linebacker Jonathan Hagler said. “They have one of the top rushing offenses in the country, so we look forward to the challenge. They are a really good team.”

The Owls suffered a close 28-23 loss to Samford to begin the season, but avenged that loss by eliminating the Bulldogs 28-17 in the first round of the playoffs.

Kennesaw State runs the triple option, which the Gamecocks faced earlier this season when they traveled to Atlanta to face Georgia Tech.

“They are a little bit more multiple than Georgia Tech was,” Grass said. “Coach (Brian) Bohannon came from there, so they do a lot of what Georgia Tech does and they are very similar.”

Running back Jake McKenzie gets much of the work load for Kennesaw State with 660 yards on 136 touches, but Shaquil Terry and Darnell Holland are on his heals with 634 yards and 622 yards, respectively.

Quarterback Chandler Burks has passed for 1061 yards on 61 completions, including eight touchdowns, but if he doesn’t see want he likes, he is not afraid to get out of the pocket. Burks leads the team with 1061 rushing yards through the 12 games played this season, and has found his way into the end zone 16 times when scrambling.

“They really run to the ball and they have really good players,” redshirt-junior running back Tramel Terry said. “They have a chip on their shoulder since they have only had a team for three years. They are playing for something.”

However, the Gamecocks are playing for something too.

 “I have been here all four years and two times we have failed (in this round),” senior defensive back Siran Neal said. “With this being my last year, I don’t want to fall short this year. This spot really means something because last year we fell short in preparing and this year we don’t want to have that experience again.”

Jacksonville State and Kennesaw State will square off at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 2, at Burgess-Snow Field.

North Dakota State wins their fourth-straight FCS Championship

In the 2015 FCS Championship, No. 2 North Dakota State surpassed No. 5 Illinois State 29-27 to claim their fourth-straight FCS Championship. This was the first FCS title game between two conference teams (Missouri Valley Football Conference).

North Dakota State was down 27-23 with 1:35 left to play in the game and started from their own 17 yard-line. On the game-winning drive, Carson Wentz first completed two big first down passes. However, North Dakota State would find themselves in a third and 10 situation with 57 seconds left. Wentz found RJ Urzendowski for a 33-yard pass to bring them down to the 5 yard-line. That would set up the game-winning 5-yard touchdown run by Wentz with 37 seconds left.

Illinois State still had a chance to come back, but Esley Thorton intercepted a pass to secure the North Dakota State win.

For North Dakota State, Wentz passed or 237 yards with a touchdown in the air and on the ground. Urzendowski had five receptions for 100 yards.

Tre Roberson led Illinois State with three passing touchdowns, 161 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown. His teammate, James O’Shaughnessy, had two catches that resulted in two touchdowns.

The win gives North Dakota State their fourth-straight FCS Championship. In the last four seasons, North Dakota State has more championships than losses with a 58-3 record.

In the path to their 2015 FCS Championship, North Dakota State defeated South Dakota 27-24 in the second round of the playoffs. They went on to beat Coastal Carolina 39-32 in the Quarterfinals. In the Semifinals, North Dakota State played Sam Houston who beat Jacksonville State 37-26 in the second round. North Dakota State convincingly won 35-3 to advance to the Championship game and earned the victory over Illinois State.

Illinois State struck first with Roberson finding Jon-Marc Anderson on a 13-yard touchdown pass. Adam Keller kicked a 41-yard field goal for North Dakota State’s first points. This made the score 7-3.

In the second quarter, Luke Albers caught a 6-yard touchdown pass from Wentz to put NDSU up three with score 10-7 at halftime.

The second half presented more scoring. After another 41-yard field goal by Keller, John Crockett ran seven yards for the touchdown that extended the lead 20-7.

Illinois State would soon find the end zone on a 41-yard pass from Roberson to O’Shaughnessy. The touchdown made the score 20-14 until NDSU added three points with another field goal by Keller. This time it was a 24-yard field goal.

Illinois State found themselves down by just two points when Roberson and O’Shaughnessy connected once more for a 3-yard touchdown pass.

With the score favoring NDSU 23-21 with under two minutes left, Illinois State scored to take the lead. Roberson scored on a 58-yard touchdown run to put Illinois State up 27-23. Illinois State failed on the two-point conversion which would’ve made the score 29-23. That was very critical since North Dakota State drove down the field and scored, but had their extra point blocked. The game ended 29-27.

The game could’ve easily went into overtime if Illinois State converted that two-point conversion.

Marvel Robinson
Sports Editor

JSU Football season ends in second round of FCS Playoffs

JSU Sportswire
JSU Sportswire

In the second round of the FCS Playoffs, the Jacksonville State Gamecocks lost 37-26 to the Sam Houston Bearkats. The Gamecocks season ends with an overall 10-2 record.

In the loss, JSU had more rushing and passing yards than Sam Houston. The Gamecocks ran for 260 yards, while Sam Houston ran for 241. Sam Houston threw for 161 yards, but the Gamecocks threw for 253.

It was 12 penalties and two turnovers that really hurt Jacksonville State. The Bearkats scored 14 points off those turnovers and they only had four penalties.

Eli Jenkins led with 337 all-purpose yards. Jenkins threw for 253 yards and added 84 yards on the ground. Jenkins had a passing and a rushing touchdown.

DaMarcus James led in rushing with 128 yards and a touchdown. The touchdown was James 49th career rushing touchdown and puts him at the top of the list for career rushing touchdowns breaking David Gulledge all-time school record.

On defense, there were four Gamecocks in double digits with tackles. Ben Endress and Michael Carlisle led with 11 tackles, while Siran Neal and Folo Johnson both had 10 tackles.

On Jacksonville State’s first drive of the game, the Gamecocks drove right down the field on 5 plays for 70 yards to score the first touchdown of the game. On the drive, Jenkins completed two big passes, one to Markis Merrill for 29 yards, and the other to Josh Barge for 40 yards. The passes set up a 1-yard touchdown run by James. Sam Houston answered with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Jared Johnson to Keshawn Hill to tie the score 7-7. JSU would then respond and go up 14-7 with a 73-yard touchdown pass from Jenkins to Spencer Goffigan. The score would remain 14-7 at the end of the first quarter.

Sam Houston struck first in the second quarter and tied the score at 14. JSU would answer with a touchdown of their own as Jenkins ran for 14 yards into the end zone. The extra point was blocked, so the score remained 20-14. It was 8:36 left in the second quarter when Sam Houston took the lead for the first time in the game going up 21-20 due to a touchdown pass from Johnson to LaDarius Brown. The Gamecocks would respond again, but this time with a 37-yard field goal by Connor Rouleau to jump ahead 23-21. Sam Houston would mock JSU with a field goal of their own to take the lead 24-23. However, JSU regained the lead with a 42-yard field goal by Rouleau right before the end of the half to lead 26-24 at halftime.

The Gamecocks played well in the first half, but the second half was the difference maker. The Gamecocks were shut out in the second half. The defense gave up two touchdowns in the third quarter to give Sam Houston the 37-26 lead. The Gamecocks had a chance to comeback, but fell short. JSU turned the ball over late in the fourth quarter and that sealed the deal.

Sam Houston will now face Villanova in the Division I Quarterfinals.

In the post-game interview, JSU head coach John Grass talked about the loss.

“They just made a few more plays than we did,” Grass said.

“Our guys played extremely hard (and) played the game physical. We did not play a bad game. At times we played extremely well today.”

Although JSU loss, John Grass was still named the American Football Coaches Association 2014 FCS Regional Coach of the Year.

JSU will look to do just as good in the regular season next year as they did this year. The Gamecocks won every single Conference game in the regular season and was named OVC Champions. Next season, the Gamecocks will look to not only make the playoffs again, but to go further than the second round and maybe to the Championship.

OVC Champs clinch playoff birth

JSU Sportswire
JSU Sportswire

The No. 3 Jacksonville State Gamecocks defeated Eastern Illinois 27-20 to claim the Ohio Valley Conference Championship and clinch a playoff spot in the FCS Playoffs.

The Gamecocks are now 9-1 overall and 7-0 in the Ohio Valley Conference. This is the first time in school history that Jacksonville State has posted a perfect 7-0 in the OVC.

Jacksonville State head coach John Grass has the most wins through 10 games than any JSU coach in his debut season.

The passing game was huge in the win as Eli Jenkins passed for a career best 288 yards and one touchdown. Josh Barge led the receivers with eight receptions, 153 yards and a touchdown. Ruben Gonzalez caught seven passes of his own for 113 yards. This was the first time the Gamecocks had two receivers over 100 yards since Nov. 3, 2001.

“We knew we were going to have to throw it coming in,” said head coach John Grass in the post-game interview. “Barge had his normal day, Eli played really, really well and it was good to see Ruben get going. He showed tonight what we thought he could do the whole season.”

DaMarcus James had another good game on the ground as he rushed for over 100 yards with a touchdown. James has a school-record of 17 career 100-yard rushing games.

On the defensive end, Darius Jackson and Jaylen Hill both had interceptions. Jackson returned his interception for a 27-yard touchdown. Michael Carlisle and Ben Endress both led with 10 tackles.

Jacksonville State scored on their first drive of the game in just two plays. It only took 41 seconds for Jenkins to find Barge on a 59-yard touchdown pass. JSU jumped up 7-0 early in the game. However, Eastern Illinois would find the end zone towards the end of the first quarter to tie the score at seven.

In the second quarter, Connor Rouleau kicked two back-to-back field goals to put the Gamecocks up 13-7. Then, after another defensive stand, Jacksonville State’s running back James found the end zone on an 8-yard run. JSU went up 20-7 at halftime.

In the third, Eastern Illinois scored 10 unanswered points to bring the score to 20-17.

It was early in the fourth quarter when Jackson intercepted a pass for the Gamecocks and returned it for a 27-yard touchdown. This made the score 27-17 until Eastern Illinois added three more points with a field goal. EIU had two more chances to score again, but the Gamecocks defense stopped them and held them to no yards on the last two possessions. The final score ended 27-20.

JSU will now head on the road to Cape Giradeau, Mo. to face Southeast Missouri in the last game of the regular season.

“Hopefully we’ll have a good week this week and go on the road and beat a good SEMO team and make sure we get one of the top four seeds and get to play at home,” said Grass.

Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. Live stats and game information can be found at www.jsugamecocksports.com.

Marvel Robinson
Sports Editor