Garrett Sanders, Sports Correspondent
This past Saturday, the Jacksonville State University football team traveled to Clarkesville, Tennessee to play Austin Peay. Unfortunately, the Gamecocks left Tennessee defeated.
The Gamecocks knew the importance of this game, and they would be tested early. Anything can happen on any given Saturday, and this was no different.
Austin Peay came out firing from all directions and the Gamecocks defense could not stop the Governor’s offensive attack. Missed tackles, poor execution and mental mistakes would be the downfall for JSU.
However, the defense was not the only group that lacked strength. Offensively, turning over the ball was the memo for the Gamecocks, and Austin Peay took clear advantage of this.
Despite the 33-52 loss, there were some good performances that prevailed in this matchup. While Zerrick Cooper threw a total of three interceptions, he also continued his streak of throwing a touchdown pass for an eighteenth consecutive game.
Wide-receiver Josh Pearson has had an awe-inspiring campaign throughout his time at JSU, and this particular matchup was a career-making day. Pearson added two receiving touchdowns to his record for a total of seven touchdowns in just five matchups, and 24 career total touchdowns.
Pearson’s first touchdown during Saturday’s game came on a 16-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter from his counterpart Cooper. This tied the touchdown record holder for the JSU all-time receiving touchdown record. One more touchdown and Pearson would be in the JSU history books.
With less than two minutes left in the game, JSU had the game loss well in hand. However, the Gamecocks did manage to get a drive going. At the three-yard line in the red zone, Pearson knew it was now or next week to break that record.
Being the fantastic slot receiver Pearson is, he beat the Governor’s corner on a perfect slant and Cooper zipped the ball to him. With an ideal throw and ideal catch, Pearson came through with a touchdown for the Gamecocks.
With that run to the endzone, Pearson officially broke a record and reached a milestone in his career. But for Pearson, it wasn’t about the record; it was about trying to get better as a team moving forward from the loss.
“We have a lot of people that are living off last year and the freshmen season in 2015. We haven’t made a name for ourselves and we have to do that first,” said Pearson during the postgame press conference. “We have to win the ball on both sides of the line. It’s bad when we only have 62 yards rushing. We have to change our approach and not look at records. We have to go out there and play Jacksonville State football, and that is the problem, we are not doing that. We are focusing on yesterday and last year. We have to attack each day and get better.”
The Gamecocks have realized that they must get more physical in practice. Head Coach John Grass made that clear during Monday’s practice.
“They just kicked our rear ends. That’s all you can say. It was just a poor performance everywhere,” said Grass. “We will be very physical this week in practice. Until we win the line of scrimmage, that is what we will do. That is the way this program was built and we will get it back to that point.”
This Saturday, the Gamecocks will host the Tennessee State Tigers. Tennessee State is 1-4, but John Grass feels that the Tigers can easily be overlooked.
“It does not get any easier this week because I feel like we are playing the most talented team that we have played all year. This is the best 1-4 (FCS) team in the country with Tennessee State. They could easily be 4-1 because they are a good football team. As always, we have to get ready to play,” said Grass.
Fans can catch the game at Burgess-Snow Field at 6 p.m. The game will also be broadcasted live on 91.9 WLJS and on the ESPN+ app.